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Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021

Section 127 – Elections

550.Section 127 requires merger regulations to specify the date for the first ordinary elections to the new principal council and the length of the term of office for the councillors elected at that election.

551.Merger regulations may also include provision to cancel the ordinary elections to the principal councils which are the subject of the merger and, if necessary, to extend the term of office for the councillors of those councils until the transfer date. No useful purpose is served by holding elections to councils which are scheduled to be abolished in the near future. Similarly, if one or more of the merging councils has a directly elected mayor, provision could be included in the merger regulations extending the term of a sitting mayor and cancelling a scheduled election.

552.The merger regulations may also make provision about by-elections, including provision to disapply or modify, for a period specified in the merger regulations, the requirement (in section 89 of the 1972 Act) by which a by-election must be held to fill a casual vacancy in the council of a merging council. Section 89(3) of the 1972 Act also suspends by-elections if a casual vacancy occurs within six months of the next scheduled ordinary elections in the council concerned.

553.Provision would generally need to be made in merger regulations to specify the last date on which a by-election in a merging council would be held; there will usually need to be a cut-off date to prevent a situation whereby a by-election would otherwise be required to be held just days before the abolition of the existing principal local councils, which would be a waste of money and other resources.

554.Merger regulations could also include provision disapplying or modifying (in respect of a merging council) section 88 of the 1972 Act, which sets requirements and time limits for filling a casual vacancy in the office of chair of a principal council. There would be little purpose in holding a special meeting of a merging council to fill such a vacancy if it occurs within a few weeks of the council’s abolition.

555.Section 127(2)(c) also enables merger regulations to make provision for the conduct of by-elections, filling of casual vacancies etc. in shadow councils; this would include, for example, arrangements for specifying the returning officer for by-elections in the period up until the shadow council has appointed its own returning officer.

556.Ordinary elections for community councils are usually combined with ordinary elections for principal councils for efficiency purposes. Subsection (2)(d) enables community council elections to be postponed, and could be used to make them coincide with the date of the first ordinary elections to the new principal council.

557.Subsection (3) enables merger regulations to specify who will be responsible for the various arrangements about the first elections to the new council and the first meeting of the new council. In most circumstances, these would be shared between the merging councils and their officers, but if need be the regulations may provide that the Welsh Ministers may direct a principal council (under subsection (4)) as to the appointment of a returning officer.

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