Councillors in Wales could be restricted by term limits

Councillors in Wales will only be allowed to serve for a limited number of electoral terms under new proposals from the Welsh government.

Public services minister Leighton Andrews has published a white paper with a number of proposed measures to reinvigorate local government, including a 25-year cap on service as a councillor. 

He said: “I want there to be a new deal for local government. That doesn’t mean removing powers that councils currently have, but trying to ensure that their membership base is more diverse.”

Top of his list is term limits for councillors, which will break up "the old boy network". The average age of councillors is over 60 and only 30% are women. The term “pale, male and stale” has been used to describe the makeup of local government in Wales.

Andrews’ white paper proposes that council elections take place every five years, instead of four as at present and that councillors should serve for a maximum of five terms – 25 years. Council leaders and cabinet members would get a maximum two terms, or 10 years.

The Electoral Reform Society in Wales said that the reforms will bring 'fresh blood' into Welsh town halls.

Steve Brooks, ERS Cymru director told the South Wales Argus: “Local councils need a mix of talents to work best, but our research shows that in some parts of Wales grassroots democracy is withering. In 2012, nearly 100 councillors were elected unopposed, and as the Welsh Government’s own figures show, older white men still occupy the most seats in Welsh town halls.

“Any idea to get more people involved in local government should be looked at, and whilst introducing term limits would prevent local politicians resting on their laurels for life in safe seats, it does take power away from voters.”

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".

Other measures included in the white paper are:

  • 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

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

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