Mark Drakeford, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government
The Local Authority Elections (Wales) Order 2014 provided for local elections in Wales to be delayed for a year, from May 2016 to May 2017. This allowed the elections to be separated from the Assembly elections.
At the present time, the Local Government Act 1972 provides that ordinary elections to local government in Wales take place on the first Thursday of May every four years. Therefore, the next local government elections would normally take place in May 2021. Since the implementation of the provisions of the Wales Act 2014, elections to the National Assembly take place on a five-yearly cycle. The policy of the Welsh Government is that elections at local level should also be placed on a five year cycle. It is intended that councillors elected next May will therefore hold office until May 2022.
The Wales Bill, currently before Parliament, includes provisions which would enable the Assembly to legislate to determine the term of office for local government. As the Bill is currently in draft form and should these provisions, for any reason, not come into force, the Welsh Government could use the same powers under the Local Government Act 2000 as we did in 2014 to delay the elections by a year. This statement therefore provides clarity to local government as to the length of office of those to be elected next year.
In the light of this, I have considered the decision made last year in relation to the electoral arrangements of some principal councils. It was determined that reviews conducted by the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales in relation to nine principal areas would not be implemented, given the intention that councils elected in 2017 would only serve a short term prior to mergers.
However, even though the elections in May next year will now result in a full term, due to their proximity, the arrangements which would be required and the disruption for potential candidates, I do not intend to implement any changes to current electoral arrangements in advance of the 2017 elections resultant from those reviews. The councils concerned are Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Conwy, Denbighshire, Gwynedd, Monmouthshire, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Torfaen.
The decision that councils will be elected for a full term also means that the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission (the Commission) will return to its normal ten-year cycle of reviews of electoral arrangements. I expect the Commission to publish a new, prioritised programme as soon as possible which takes into account the age of the current arrangements in some areas and the amount of change since the last review was undertaken. I will ask the Commission, in planning their work, to start by revisiting the nine outstanding reviews, with a view to presenting fresh reports on these at the very start of their programme.
It is my intention that reviews of electoral arrangements in principal councils will be conducted against a set of common criteria to be agreed through the Commission. I also expect electoral reviews to have been completed for all 22 authorities within the next local government term.
These arrangements provide clarity for those considering standing for election in 2017 and also set out a long term planning horizon for local authorities and their public service partners. However, I want to be clear that discussions on the reform agenda are on-going with local authorities and other stakeholders. I will be proposing a way forward on local government reform in the Autumn.