The minister is considering this move because he has powers under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act (2011). The Act has already been used to delay the date of the next Welsh Assembly elections to 2016, which means that Carwyn Jones has gained another year in which to do nothing much at all.
The trouble is, Mr Sargeant thinks, that by delaying the Welsh Assembly elections, they will now coincide with the local government elections scheduled for 2016. Of course, people can't be trusted to cast two votes for different bodies at the same time, so he wants another delay.
At the risk of sounding cynical, the likelihood is that most politicians will base their response on whether they think they will be in power in 2016 or not. Council chief executives will probably for the most part be in favour of a delay because, from their perspective, elections disrupt administrations and bring about uncertainty. Why they should have a voice in the matter is another question.
In just about any other Western democracy, giving politicians the power to tinker with election dates and delay them in peace time would be considered an utter no-no. Not in UK plc. In Switzerland there would have to be a referendum, and in most other countries, any government which attempted this sort of thing would find itself hauled up before a constitutional court. In the UK, all it takes is a little letter to selected members of the Establishment.
Here are a couple of other reasons for not delaying the council elections.
- Holding local authority and Assembly elections on the same day might, just, boost turnout and give those elected a stronger mandate.
- Compared with other elected bodies these days, a disproportionate number of county councillors are well beyond retirement age. Extending the life of councils to five years will see more by-elections and long-term leaves of absence because of ill health. Quite apart from those who are no longer really capable of doing the job to which they were elected, because as we all know, it is very rare in public life these days for anyone to step down honourably.