Posted: Wed 11th May 2022

Plans to increase Senedd Members branded ‘pet project’ by Welsh Conservatives

North Wales news and information

Proposals to increase the number of Senedd Members to 96 has been described as a “Labour and Plaid pet project”, by the Welsh Conservatives.

Yesterday it was announced that as part of a co-operation between the two parties, proposals had been set out to reform the Senedd.

This includes an increase in members by 36 to 96 elected through a proportional representation process. and statutory gender quotas.

They want Senedd reform to be implemented in time for the next election in 2026, even if some of the changes are introduced on an interim basis.

At present, the Senedd is said to be “seriously under-resourced and underpowered” additional members would play a critical role in delivering better scrutiny and more informed decision making.

The joint position statement is the result of ongoing discussions between the First Minister and the Leader of Plaid Cymru, as part of the Co-operation Agreement.

It states:

  • The Senedd should have 96 Members.
  • It should be elected using closed proportional lists with integrated statutory gender quotas and mandatory zipping.
  • Seats should be allocated to parties using the D’Hondt formula.
  • The 2026 Senedd election should use the final 32 UK Parliament constituencies proposed by the Boundary Commission for Wales once it has concluded its 2023 Parliamentary Review.
  • These constituencies should be paired to create 16 Senedd constituencies. Each constituency should elect six Members.
  • A full boundary review should be instigated in this Senedd term and its recommendations should take effect from the subsequent Senedd election.

However the move has been condemned by the Welsh Conservatives, who say that Wales needs “more teachers, doctors, dentists and nurses” – not politicians in Cardiff.

Welsh Conservative leader, Andrew Davies MS, said: “With residents across the country facing cost-of-living pressures, the last thing they need is to be footing the bill – expected to be more than £75 million over five years at least – for Labour and Plaid’s pet project.

“Ministers should be spending that money on tackling the big issues facing Wales, not wasting time and cash looking at upping the number of Senedd members.

“Now is the time to fix our broken NHS, get the economy fired up, and boost our education system, but sadly Labour and Plaid have got their priorities completely skewed.

“Whilst we have consistently objected to more politicians, we recognise Labour and Plaid have enough votes to push ahead and that’s why we have engaged constructively with the Senedd Reform Committee – but sadly it appears both parties have completely undermined the committee’s work with today’s announcement.”

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Constitution, Darren Millar MS, added: “It is disappointing that the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru have sought to thwart the work of the Welsh Parliament’s Senedd Reform Committee by issuing this statement today.

“While the Welsh Conservatives have always been clear that we oppose plans to increase the number of politicians in Wales, we have accepted that there is a mandate for change and, for that reason, we have played a constructive role in the work of the Senedd Reform Committee to date.

“Today’s statement suggests that the Labour and Plaid leaders want to strongarm the committee and dictate its conclusions rather than to allow the committee to complete its independent work.

“We joined this process in good faith, but it looks like that was misplaced.”

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have also argued that the proposals from Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru “falls short of creating a strong democracy for Wales”.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds MS said: “The statement falls short of what we need to create a Senedd and a democracy that’s fit for Wales.

“The proposed constituency map will mean nothing to communities, and we will still be lumbered with a voting system that fails to ensure that votes match seats. Plaid Cymru appeared to have abandoned their commitment to STV.

“In a scramble to make an announcement, Plaid Cymru and Labour have ensured that the debate about whether the Senedd is fit for purpose will start no sooner than these proposals are brought into law.”

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