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Sunday, January 15, 2023

Senedd Member wants more support for 'fantastic' councillors

* North Wales Senedd Member Sam Rowlands.

Sam Rowlands, Member of the Welsh Parliament for North Wales, has called for more support for "our fantastic councillors". 

Speaking in the Senedd, Mr Rowlands, Shadow Minister for Local Government, highlighted the "great work" being carried out by councillors despite the demands of the job and the issues they face.

But he also highlighted the "abhorrent bad behaviour and abuse" that many of them receive.


In responding to a statement by the Finance and Local Government Minister, Rebecca Evans, ‘Diversity in Democracy—Survey Results’ he said: “The decisions councillors make have that real-life impact on our communities across Wales as a whole, and on this side of the benches we certainly welcome support being provided to our fantastic councillors and applaud their efforts to best represent their communities.


“There are just three points I'd like to pick up and expand on. You outlined the work that's being done to ensure more flexibility for council meetings. It is crucially important that our local councillors don't lose the focus of the in-person nature of representation as well. 

"Often, some of the best work is undertaken in person. Regretfully, a number of councillors in Wales still aren't meeting flexibly—they're insisting to only meet online and seemingly taking advantage of this way of meeting, which, in my view, does put limits on democratic involvement."

He added: "In terms of improving democracy and diversity in democracy, one of the biggest areas of opportunity, is in working with employers to enable their staff to carry out their role as councillors. 

"For my 14 years as a councillor, 10 of those I held a full-time job, but I was lucky to work for a company that saw the benefits of my role as a councillor and allowed me the flexibility to carry out both of those roles. Regretfully, many organisations still don't understand these benefits.

“The second point is the abhorrent bad behaviour and abuse that many councillors and candidates receive. There is a risk that abuse becomes normalised and is seen as part of the job, which we must not allow to happen as it really puts people off standing for election and certainly has an impact on diversity in our councils. 

“The final point is in relation to the level of commitment from many of our councillors. As mentioned in the public survey, 63% of councillors indicated that they were available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which is a great commitment and a reflection of their work. 

"But I would argue it is a difficult expectation to sustain and this expectation makes it very difficult for councillors and prospective councillors to juggle family life, a career, and then also representing their community.”

Mr Rowlands urged the Minister, for more support for councillors and to ensure younger people, who want to become councillors, or who are councillors, had a fair expectation of the time and energy they need to commit to the role.

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