Page last updated at 07:52 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 08:52 UK

Councillors 'not getting younger'

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More than 3,000 candidates are standing the polls on 1 May

Welsh councillors are not getting any younger, BBC Wales research has found.

That is despite the assembly government offering "golden goodbyes" to long serving councillors in 2004 to encourage more diversity of candidates.

The average age of councillors is still 61 in the 10 local authorities surveyed four years ago. Across Wales it is 40, while 40% of councillors are over 65.

There has been a slight increase in the number of women councillors but they hold less than a quarter of seats.

The image of '"old, white men" running local authorities prompted the last assembly government to offer some councillors a cash incentive if they stood down in the 2004 election.

A total of 79 members, from the eight local authorities that participated in the scheme, did take up the offer. It cost the taxpayer over 1.6m.

There was a drop in the average age of councillors after that local election but BBC Wales has discovered the effect in 10 particular council areas has been limited.

COUNCIL MAKE-UP
Town hall (generic)
Six councils have no member under the age of 35
396 councillors (40.8%) are 65 or over
Only 32 (3.3%) of councillors are under 35
Average age of councillors is 40
78% are men and 22% are women
1% are from ethnic minorities
Source: Information from 17 of 22 Welsh councils, March 2008, for BBC Wales

In March 2004, according to the 10 local authorities who had kept the information, the average age of councillors before the election of that year was 61.

Four years on, the average age in those 10 areas remains 61 as the local elections once again loom.

Blaenau Gwent and Bridgend councils saw the biggest rise, while Powys had the most noticeable drop.

The main political parties have made an effort in recent years to find younger candidates and to encourage more women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds to stand in local elections.

Seventeen of the 22 Welsh councils gave BBC Wales an age breakdown of their members for March this year.

Just over 40% are 65 or over, with fewer than 10% of councillors under 44 years old.

There are only 32 (3.3%) who are under 35.

There has been some success in improving gender balance, according to the research.

Effort

The trend of having more women councillors continues but at a slow pace. In 2004, 20% were women - this has risen to 22%.

If that rate of change was to continue it would be 60 years from now, 2068, before the gender split on Welsh councils would reflect the current balance in the population of Wales.

There is a similar pattern for people from ethnic minority backgrounds. The 2004 election saw a drop in the number of councillors who described themselves as being of mixed, Asian or Black heritage to less than 1%.

According to the last census, just over 2% of the Welsh population described themselves as being from ethnic minority communities.

Come 1 May this could all change. The main political parties say they are making an effort to promote diversity in their candidates.

On Tuesday it was confirmed that more than 3,000 candidates had been officially nominated to stand in Wales 22 local authorities.

Voters have until 16 April to ensure that they are registered to cast their ballot.



WELSH COUNCIL ELECTIONS 2008

  Councillors Councils
Party +/- Total +/- Total
LAB -124 342 -6 2
CON 63 174 1 2
PC 31 205 -1 0
LD 21 162 0 0
OTH 9 381 0 0
NOC - - 6 18
22 of 22 councils declared.

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