A decision to redraw the electoral map of Caerphilly County Borough Council has been delayed until after the Senedd election in May.
Julie James, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Housing and Local Government was due to make a final decision on the proposals in December last year.
In a written statement, Ms James said she asked for further information from the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales on the changes following “significant” representations on plans to ‘move’ 528 homes from Ystrad Mynach ward to Llanbradach. The deadline for this further information is April 30.
Former Ynysddu councillor Jan Jones has also written to the minister to voice community opposition to plans to merge the Ynysddu with Crosskeys wards.
Any changes will now be made by the incoming Welsh Government after the Senedd election on May 6.
Boundary changes – what you need to know
Who is doing this?
The Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales is an independent Welsh Government sponsored body.
Established under the Local Democracy (Wales) Act 2013, the commission periodically reviews electoral boundaries in Wales in “the interest of effective and convenient local government”.
This most recent review was carried out under the orders of the Welsh Government ready for the 2022 local government elections.
Why is it being done?
Populations change. This review was carried out with the intention of ensuring people are represented adequately with a ‘correct’ number of councillors for their ward area.
The proposals aim to improve “electoral parity” across the borough.
This means each ward has enough councillors to represent its size in terms of the number of residents able to vote (which from 2022 includes 16-year-olds.
What are the overall proposals and what’s staying the same?
The final recommendations propose a reduction in the number of councillors from 73 to 69.
It is also proposed to reduce the number of electoral wards by three from 33 to 30.
Eighteen wards would remain geographically the same. These are Abercarn, Aber Valley, Crumlin, Gilfach, Maesycwmmer, Nelson, New Tredegar, Penmaen, Pontllanfraith, Risca West, Argoed, Blackwood, Darran Valley, Morgan Jones, Penyrheol, Risca East, St Martins and Newbridge.
Crosskeys and Ynysddu have been recommended to merge as have Cefn Fforest with Pengam; and Bargoed with Aberbargoed.
In the north of the county borough a new ward by the name of Moriah and Pontylottyn is proposed, which would be made up of the current Moriah ward and most of the current Pontlottyn ward.
The Twyn Carno ward would keep its name and would include a small area in the north of current Pontlottyn ward.
Hengoed ward, which is made up of Hengoed and Cefn Hengoed, would largely remain the same, though parts of Cefn Hengoed would be redistributed to other wards.
One of those wards is St Cattwg, which is made up of the communities of Penpedairheol, Gelligaer and Tir-y-berth.
The Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen ward is proposed to be split into Bedwas and Trethomas, while Machen would be merged with part of the current St James to form a new ward of Machen and Rudry.
The remainder of the St James ward would be renamed Van and would include Porset Park and Lansbury Park.
The Ystrad Mynach ward would gain parts of Cefn Hengoed ward, but lose 528 homes which would go to Llanbradach.
How have people reacted?
The community of Forge Mill in Ystrad Mynach, made up of 528 homes could be ‘moved’ to Llanbradach in the shake-up.
Residents are unhappy with the proposed change. A similar reaction was had from residents of Blackwood with an earlier version of the plans. These had parts of Blackwood being placed into Cefn Fforest and Pengam, but protests from the community had those plans scrapped.
Forge Mill resident Phil Morris, a 43-year-old IT worker, told Caerphilly Observer last year that his community was upset at the lack of publicity surrounding the changes. Had they known about them sooner, then they would have fed into the commission’s consultations. However a social media campaign to lobby the minister into a re-think seems to have worked.
Residents have also raised concerns that a portion of their council tax will end up going to Llanbradach and Pwllypant Community Council rather than Gelligaer Community Council, which covers the town of Ystrad Mynach.
There was also concern around Bargoed and Aberbargoed, if merged, incorporating the Senedd constituency boundary between Caerphilly and Islwyn. This could lead to confusion from residents living in the ward as to who represents them in Cardiff Bay.
Hefin David, Labour Senedd Member and candidate for Caerphilly, met with Julie James, the Welsh Government minister who will have the final say last year, and was encouraged by the talks.
Jan Jones, the former Ynysddu councillor and current secretary of the Lower Sirhowy Valley Communities Partnership, also wrote to Ms James and said the community was not consulted on the plans.
She wrote: “Therefore, we feel that your decision could be in danger of being imposed rather than mutually agreed.”
“The Crosskeys Ward represents the communities of Pontywaun and Crosskeys, both are small towns and have their own identity. Crosskeys has a large tertiary college and a direct train link to other small towns in the Ebbw Valley (Risca and Newport). Historically there has never been a connection between Ynysddu Ward and Crosskeys, which has more in common with Risca, than with the Lower Sirhowy Valley/Ynysddu Ward.”
What happens next?
The final proposals, published on November 5, are now in the hands of the Welsh Government for a final decision.
This had been due in December last year, but following representations to the minister, this will now be a matter for the incoming Welsh Government after the Senedd election on May 6.
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