Leighton Andrews, Minister for Public Services
The consultation on the Draft Local Government (Wales) Bill, including the Welsh Government’s preference for the future configuration of Local Authorities in Wales, closed on 15 February. 187 responses to the consultation were received from a range of stakeholders and members of the public. 21 Local Authorities responded.
I thank the Chair and Members of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee, who undertook pre-legislative scrutiny of the Draft Bill for their contribution to the process.
The Draft Bill is based on the proposals set out in the Welsh Government’s White Papers ‘Reforming Local Government: Power to Local People’, and ‘Public Services Staff Commission’. We received hundreds of responses in relation to the consultations on both White Papers.
Officials have undertaken an initial analysis of the consultation responses to the Draft Bill which suggests support for the broad principles of many of its provisions, including those relating to public participation in Local Government and the general power of competence.
In contrast, concerns were expressed about some provisions including Duties on Elected Members of County Councils and Improvement of Governance. Further consideration will be given to these provisions. Respondents supported the principle that larger local authorities should be effectively connected to their communities, but expressed concern as to whether community area committees would ensure communities had an effective voice or provide sufficient challenge to the Council’s executive. I have therefore asked officials to revisit the provisions with these principles in mind.
In June 2015 I announced the Welsh Government’s preference for the future configuration of Local Authorities in Wales. Two maps were published which showed the preference for the future structure in South, Mid and West Wales with two options (two or three Local Authorities) in North Wales. The initial analysis of the consultation responses has shown a wide range of views on our proposal to reduce the number of Local Authorities and no clear consensus on the future structure.
The consultation document published alongside the Draft Bill included additional policy proposals. There were a range of comments from respondents on the proposals to abolish community polls and to replace them with a system of e-petitions. While these comments are being considered, no changes to the existing rules for the conduct of community polls are proposed.
Further analysis of the responses, and the comments of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee, will take place in the coming weeks. A full summary of the responses will be published after the Assembly elections. It will be for the next Welsh Government to make a decision on how it wishes to proceed, with the benefit of a full understanding of the views of stakeholders.