The Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales has published draft proposals for a re-jig of wards in Carmarthenshire to reflect changes in population levels in different parts of the county. The overall recommendation is for 75 councillors (currently we have 74), which would produce an average of 1,881 voters per councillor. It is also proposing a significant increase in the number of multi-member wards from 16 currently to 24. Only 23 wards (currently 42) would continue to be represented by a single councillor.
At present some areas are significantly under-represented, while other councillors need far fewer votes to book a seat in County Hall. The range is from 37% below the average (i.e. voters are over-represented) to 55% above (voters are under-represented).
At one extreme are Bynea and Dafen in Llanelli, currently represented by 2 councillors. Bynea is 55% above the county average, while Dafen is 37% above. The proposal is turn them into a single ward with 3 councillors.
At the other end of the scale is Cilycwm where 1,197 electors return a single councillor (currently octogenarian Tom Theophilus).
Roughly speaking, one vote in Cilycwm is equivalent to three votes in Bynea.
The net effect of all the proposed changes is that the range would be reduced slightly to 22% below and 24% above the average for the county. To a certain extent the proposals take into account that some of the rural wards cover very large areas, and so there is a degree of compensation for that.
Overall the result would probably be to give Labour, and to a lesser extent Plaid Cymru, a boost at the expense of the Independents. The proposals would also most likely mark the end of the road for some of Pam's old boys..
Whether multi-member wards are a good thing is another matter. Certainly there are already quite a few examples of good councillors sharing a patch with lazy and incompetent party hacks.
One final oddity was the response of Abergwili Community Council, the stomping ground of that champion of democracy, transparency and press freedom Cllr Pam Palmer, who also glories in the title of Deputy Leader of the Council with special responsibility for rural affairs (have you noticed?). Abergwili is just outside Carmarthen, but unlike all of the other community councils which responded to the Commission by discussing the proposals for their own localities, Aber-Palmer came up with a set of proposals for how it felt electors in neighbouring Carmarthen should be organised.
Fortunately the Commissioner decided not to accept this unasked-for advice.