Most of you probably expect that if a Town or Community councillor resigns or passes away this will automatically trigger a by election.
After all, we live in a democracy and we have the right to express our choice at the ballot box.
What you may not realise is that a by election is not automatically triggered.
A by election only happens if at least 10 electors write to the returning officer to call for one.
Vacancies are advertised on council websites and noticeboards but unless you know where to look or pay close attention to local government matters they are often overlooked.
It is unfortunate that the cost of by elections, usually in the region of £6,000 is borne by the council in question. However, this is the cost of democracy.
When no election is called or if no candidates come forward then councils may “co-opt” a councillor, the existing councillors seek applications and select a new councillor themselves.
Whilst this is entirely proper, it should be the last resort not the preferred option.
Since May’s local government elections there have been a number of community council vacancies in Cefn Glas, Brynmenyn, Bettws and Pontycymer. In each case a by election has been called.
People have exercised their democratic right in calling for an election to give the electorate a choice not to leave things in the hands of councillors.
Bridgend County Independents support your right to vote and we defend those who call by elections to ensure that not only is democracy done but it’s seen to be done.
Recently we have seen a worrying trend where members of one of the national parties have criticised the calling of by elections on cost grounds.
They have argued that because by elections cost money it’s better to have a gentleman’s agreement between parties to co-opt a mutually agreeable councillor.
They just don’t get it.
At a time when trust in politics is at a low point senior local members of a national party are publicly stating that democracy is too expensive.
They denounce those who call by elections as “opportunists” and don’t understand why it can’t be left to the “cosy club” to select its own members!
Then they wonder why we are so disillusioned with local government and mistrust the democratic process.
Yes, the cost of by elections is expensive and we would welcome an investigation into how it can be reduced, but to criticise those who wish to exercise their democratic right to vote on the grounds that they are wasting money is shameful and wrong.
Those who criticise the calling of elections on cost grounds simply do not understand the value of democracy.
It is for electors not the “cosy club” to decide who represents them. Nobody should ever be made to feel guilty for calling for or standing in a by election.
Of course should any of the parties truly believe that by elections are too expensive to be held then there is a simple solution.
DON’T contest them!
Given that the Labour Party has been most vocal in expressing this anti democratic rhetoric then we must assume that they will be true to their words and never call or contest any future Town and Community Council by elections.
These are your councils and your democracy, don’t let anyone tell you the cost of democracy is too high.