The White Paper on local government reform published today by Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government Mark Drakeford AM has been informed by dialogue and engagement with local government and reflects some of the reforms councils themselves have been leading on.
Commenting on the White Paper, WLGA Leader Cllr Bob Wellington CBE (Torfaen) said:
“Local government has welcomed the Cabinet Secretary’s approach to engagement and his commitment to work with councils on a basis of mutual respect and trust. The new White Paper builds on the constructive discussions that have occurred across local government since the autumn about Mark Drakeford’s proposals to continue local government’s progress around collaboration and regionalization.”
“Local authorities are committed to reform and have made impressive progress on this agenda, for example, through the regional economic development approaches such as the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, the Growing Mid Wales Partnership and the council decisions in recent weeks to back the city deals in the Cardiff Capital City Region and Swansea Bay City Regions which are clear evidence of our collective commitment to progress.”
“The details of the White Paper, particularly the specific services and proposed governance models outlined, now need to be considered fully by authorities in the run-up to the local elections. There will be some discussion also about the specific services included and the respective regions, in particular the place of Growing Mid Wales in a wider Central and South West region.”
“Whilst councils are supportive of a move to a more regional approach, we are keen to ensure safeguards to protect and promote clear local accountability and local democracy. The WLGA has therefore put forward three key principles of subsidiarity to underpin any new regional arrangements, that funding should continue to be distributed to the 22 councils, that statutory duties should remain with the 22 councils and that local accountability through local councillors is essential to ensure that the needs of local communities are being met and outcomes are being delivered.”
There are a number of new proposals in the White Paper, including scope for proportional representation and votes for 16 year olds in local council elections. Councillors and political parties will have widely differing views on these proposals. The WLGA will want to consult its membership on voting systems and the reform of the electoral process as part of its response. We note that the White Paper is silent on this but the current Wales Bill requires a super majority to introduce electoral reform in the Assembly’s own elections.
The WLGA is keen to work with the Welsh Government and others in considering these issues in more detail and looks forward to continuing the constructive dialogue with the Cabinet Secretary which has been such a feature of the recent period.
- White Paper on Reforming Local Government: Resilient and Renewed - Click here
- Welsh Government Press Release - Click here