THE average Welsh councillor is still likely to be white, male and in his 60s by the time of the next elections despite the controversial "golden goodbyes" policy.
More than £1.6m of taxpayers' money was spent to encourage older councillors to retire before the last council elections in 2004 in a bid to bring in "fresh blood".
But it yesterday emerged that by the next round of ballots in 2008 the projected average age of members will have fallen by just one year - from 62 to 61.
Dr Dai Lloyd, Plaid Cymru's Shadow Assembly Minister for Local Government and a long- standing critic of the awards, said, "The policy was a very extravagant and wasteful sideshow which has not turned out to do anything its proponents said it would.
"The Government felt it was time for new blood - younger people, more women and more people from ethnic minorities - but it comes as no surprise that there's no actual meaningful change in the profile."
He branded the payments of up to £20,000 to councillors who had served for more than 16 years a "farce" and pointed out that payments had been made without consideration for whether councillors were intending to stand down anyway.
Dr Lloyd added, "You're supposed to be in this line of work because of the civic pride of representing your community."
The Past Service Awards were introduced in 2003 with long- standing members able to claim £1,000 for each year of service, up to a maximum of £20,000, in a one-off lump sum.
This so-called "golden goodbye" offered by the Government was narrowly passed in the Assembly, despite opposition politicians calling it a bribe.
Supporters of the scheme hoped it would lead to council chambers better reflecting the demographic profile of modern Wales and help break the common stereotype of councillors as elderly, white, middle-class men.
Of Wales' 22 local authorities, eight voted to adopt the scheme: Carmarthenshire; Ceredigion; Flintshire; Neath Port Talbot; Newport; Swansea; Torfaen and the Vale of Glamorgan.
In all, 76 retiring councillors benefited from the policy, which cost the nation's taxpayers £1,667,112.
The Welsh Local Government Association last night defended the pay-outs, saying they had had a "massive" impact in the council wards where members had stood down. A spokesman said that, without the awards, the average age of councillors could actually have risen between now and 2008.
He said, "The past service awards were introduced ahead of the 2004 elections partly to recognise long-serving councillors' contributions to their communities and to recompense them for the impact their significant council commitments had over the years on their loss of earnings, pension entitlements and promotional opportunities.
"The scheme was also aimed at encouraging a broader range of people into council chambers.
"The results therefore speak for themselves, in the 75 seats where the scheme was introduced; female representation more than doubled and the average age of councillors fell from 68 to 52 years old."
"The WLGA is encouraging a wider range of people to stand for election and will be working with the political parties and representative groups ahead of the 2008 elections to encourage more young people, more women and more people from ethnic minority backgrounds to consider standing as councillors."
According to WLGA, the average age of 62 before the last election was calculated by 'uprating' the average age of councillors (59) from its 2001 survey.
Using that same method - a method of comparison which the WLGA yesterday disputed - the average age of councillors is projected to increase from 57 at the time of the last survey following the 2004 elections, to 61 by the time of the 2008 elections.
Meanwhile the Assembly Government has continued to evaluate the effect of the Past Service Awards.
Civil servants have asked the eight councils which implemented the scheme to provide information about the age, gender, ethnicity and employment status of its councillors by February 13.
The results will then be compared with those for Welsh councils as a whole to see what effect the awards have had.