Wales politics

Councillors face term limits in radical shake-up

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Media captionCouncils are being urged to better reflect the make-up of their communities

Term limits for councillors will break up "the old boys' club", the public services minister has said.

"Reform not reorganisation" is the aim of a white paper published on Tuesday, according to Leighton Andrews.

He promised measures to cut costs and "challenge" the culture of local government by limiting councillors to 25 years service and 10 years for leaders.

A plan to cut the 22 Welsh councils to 12 has also been proposed.

Last week Mr Andrews rejected voluntary mergers by six of the 22 councils for lacking a "compelling vision".

'Poor reflection'

The white paper outlines the Welsh government's response to the Williams Commission, which in January 2014 called for a cut to between 10 and 12 councils, along with ideas to reform the way local authorities operated.

The white paper quoted a report saying the make-up of councils was a "poor reflection" of the communities they serve, with 60% of councillors being aged over sixty and men outnumbering women three to one.

Mr Andrews told BBC Wales: "It's seen as a bit of an old boys' club and we want to cut out the cosy cabals."

Promoting 'diversity'

Among the changes proposed in the white paper are:

  • Council elections every five years, not four as at present
  • Maximum five terms - 25 years - for councillors
  • Maximum two terms - 10 years - for council leaders and cabinet members
  • Pay councillors in line with those on similar sized councils elsewhere in the UK
  • Public sector employers to give staff unpaid leave to carry out duties as councillors, and other employers encouraged to do the same
  • Council leaders and chief executives given a duty to promote and respect diversity
  • Youth councils to be set up by each authority

'Trust and confidence'

"This is about reform not reorganisation," said Mr Andrews.

"It is about rebuilding councils from the inside out, rebuilding trust and confidence in local government and a new relationship between councils and the people they serve," he said.

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Media captionCarl Roberts looks at how councils have changed over the years

Conservative shadow local government minister Janet Finch-Saunders said there was an "urgent need for fresh blood and greater diversity" in local government, but that banning some candidates from standing again "may not be the fairest or most effective way to introduce younger candidates".

Plaid Cymru local government spokesman Rhodri Glyn Thomas called for a "clear vision" from a minister who was in danger of "jumping from one thing to another".

"First we had the Williams Commission, then he called on local authorities to propose voluntary mergers, they were turned down, now we are given a new introduction to look at management performance," he said.

Public consultation on the white paper - Reforming Local Government: Power to Local People - is open until 28 April.

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