The Senedd has today passed the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill which will introduce a range of local government reforms over the course of the next 18 months.
The Bill is one of only two to be considered by the Senedd during COVID 19 and the pandemic has demonstrated how important councils are within their communities and as core public service deliverers.
Councils are uniquely placed at the heart of their communities and have been relied upon to deliver significant reforms to services and introduction of support to individuals, families and businesses often at short notice under the most challenging of circumstances. The Bill has been a long time in development and preceded the COVID crisis but it has incorporated experiences and learning from pandemic including greater flexibility for remote meetings which is welcome.
Cllr Andrew Morgan (Rhondda Cynon Taf), WLGA Leader said:
“Councils have been on the front line of the COVID response, alongside our partners in the NHS. Councils and their workforce have demonstrated flexibility, innovation, resilience and responsiveness during the pandemic. The Bill therefore provides several welcome new reforms including a broad power of general competence and streamlines some governance and performance arrangements that should allow councils greater flexibility in future.”
“One of the Bill’s core themes is the promotion of local democracy and diversity, which is a priority shared by the WLGA. The Bill introduces votes for 16-17 year olds and provides wider flexibility and support for councillors, which the WLGA called for, including more flexible meeting arrangements, family absence support and allows senior councillors to job-share.”
“Some parts of the Bill have caused debate and disagreement within local government, including concerns about the mandation of regional corporate joint committees for certain services, given local government has a successful track-record of collaboration such as the regional city and growth deals across Wales. Leaders have valued the Minister for Housing and Local Government’s approach to engagement throughout the pandemic and will continue to engage constructively with her to ensure these new regional arrangements build on what works already and allow maximum local discretion and flexibility.”