WAG – LOCAL GOVERNMENT (DEMOCRACY) BILL

Response to consultation from

 

 

Notes:

The Association represents 34 Town and Community Councils in Mid and North Wales and they have been consulted on the contents included in these responses.

The views expressed below are from a Town and Community Council point of view.

 

The Local Government Boundary Commission

 

Question 1: Is there a need for a Bill to make changes to the constitution and functions of the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales (“the Commission”) and to make various provisions relating to local government?

Yes

x

No

The Association recognises the need for some changes and feels that the Bill reflects many of the concerns expressed under the current arrangements.

 

There is a need to ensure that local communities are taken ‘more into account’ when making changes to administrative boundaries.

 

 

Question 2: Do you think the Bill will improve the delivery of the statutory roles and functions of the Commission? (paragraph 3.1 of the explanatory memorandum)

Yes

Maybe

No

The ‘red tape’ which goes with such organisations is often costly, laborious and does not always improve delivery.
It is hoped that the provisions of the Bill will achieve the aims and objectives set.

 

The changes to the Commission membership are welcomed and will help the delivery of the Bill.

 

 

Question 3: Do you think the changes being made to the Commission are appropriate? (Part 2 of the Bill)

Yes

x

No

The Association does feel that the changes are appropriate.

 

The changes to the make up of the commission to add an extra member is welcomed (over having a reserve).

 

The requirement to have at least one Welsh Speaker on the group is accepted as an aim.  However it should not override the abilities of the applicants for the position.

 

The changes to the operation of Boundary and Electoral divisions are clear and appear workable.

 

 

 

Local Government arrangements

 

Question 4: Do you think the provisions relating to procedures for local government reviews are appropriate? (Chapter 4 and 5)

Yes

 X

No

The Association supports the contents of Chapters 4 and 5 of the Bill in general.

 

There are two comments which the Association wishes to make which are:

 

1.   All boundary changes which affect principal authorities have a large cost implication as well as the problems relating to transfer of assets, staff and more important documents.  Such Principal Authority Boundary changes should only take place when essential.

 

2.   Changes in boundaries which affect Town and Community Councils have, in the recent review, been ill received in many cases.  The feeling from many or our Member Councils is that communities have been divided on a ‘numerical basis’ taking little or no account of history or culture.  The contents of Chapters 4 and 5 do not cover this issue.

 

 

Question 5: Do you think the arrangements for local government in relation to:

  • Duties of the Commission
  • Duties of a principal council

are appropriate? (Chapter 1)

Yes

x

No

The Association accepts the general contents of Chapter 1.

 

The Association is happier with the report and review periods for both County Council and Community Council boundaries.  However changes should be made every 20 plus years unless there are compelling reasons why it should be done earlier.

 

The Commission is currently required to aim for each councillor (in a principal council) to represent, as closely as possible, the same number of electors. However, the Commission is also under an obligation to set boundaries which are easily identifiable and take account of local community ties.

 

In the most recent review there was much concern expressed by the Association Members.  This was due to the fact that local ties, culture and community concerns were overridden in favour of ‘numbers’ with regard to the allocation of Parliamentary Boundaries.  This is not something which the Association would like to see repeated at Principal or Community Council level.  Such a numerical basis should only be one consideration and not the overriding one.

 

 

 

Question 6: Do you think the arrangements for local government in relation to:

  • Democratic Services Committees (Section 56)
  • Audit Committees (Section 57)
  • Standards Committees (Section 63)

are appropriate?

Yes

x

No

SECTION 56

The Association is pleased to see that the definition of  ‘Local Authority’ includes ‘Community Council’.  This enables such a Community to seek a review by approaching the Principal Authority.  There should be an obligation upon the Principal Authority to consider such request from a Town or Community Council and to take such review forward if the Town or Community Council has put forward a good case for such review.

 

SECTION 57

Nothing to add.

 

SECTION 63

Nothing to add.

 


 

Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales

 

Question 7: Do you think the provisions relating to the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales are appropriate? (Chapter 5, Sections 58-62)
Yes x No
The Association supports the general provisions.

 

The Association Members are concerned about:

 

a)            Payments being made to Town and Community Councillors as an obligation.

b)            The effect on the precept of such payments.

 

The Association consultation response to the original approach is attached at appendix 1.

 

 

Access to information (Town and Community Councils)

 

Question 8: Do you think the provisions relating to improving access to information (Town and Community Councils) are appropriate?

Yes

x

No

The Association supports these provisions.  It is recognised that web sites are the future (if not now) and that Town and Community Councils should embrace this.

 

The Association is of the view that every Town and Community Council should have a basic web site with the following information contained therein:

 

a)            Contact details

b)            Dates of Council Meetings

c)            Location of Council Meetings

d)            News on local issues

 

The Association is not in favour of such web sites being hosted by others but in in favour of each having its own domain name so that it is easily accessible.

 

The timescale for implementation is acceptable.
To encourage the implementation of the proposals grant aid should be made available to include training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chairing of Principal Councils (Chairs and Mayors of Principal Councils)

 

Question 9: Do you think the provisions relating to the Chairing of Principal Councils (Chairs and Mayors of Principal Councils) are appropriate?

Yes

X

No

The Association feels that standardisation should apply to all Authorities, not have different approaches in each.  Either Principal Authorities have a Mayor/Chair or they split the role on the basis of the Mayor being Civic and the Chair being Political.

The Public need to be able to understand the roles of the two positions and if each authority is different this causes confusion.

 

 

General Provisions of the Bill

Question 10: What are the potential barriers to implementing the provisions of the Bill (if any) and does the Bill take account of them?
The Association feels that the provisions will be adopted by Principal Authorities but that it will be more difficult to get full support to implement at Town and Community Council level.

 

Any cost implication to Town and Community Councils having to implement their aspects of the Bill should be borne by the Welsh Assembly. In particular the reference to web sites.

 

When considering boundary changes affecting the boundaries of the Town and Community Councils their views should be taken as a ‘material consideration’ and not just a consultee.  If the Town and Community Councils feel that they have been ‘taken note of’ there will be much more support for any proposals put forward with regard to boundary changes.

 

 

Question 11: What are the financial implications of the Bill, if any? In answering this question you may wish to consider Part 2 of the Explanatory Memorandum (the Impact Assessment), which estimates the costs and benefits of implementation of the Bill.
The cost of the implementation of the Bill itself (ie the Commission) is not an issue to the Association.  The affects (including costs) of Boundary Changes are a different matter.

 

When considering changes in Principal Council boundaries the cost of such changes must be a material consideration. When such boundary changes have taken place the cost, transfer of assets, staff and (more importantly) documents are a major issue.  Such boundaries should only be changed where it is essential.

 

When assessing the changes in boundaries to Principal Authorities it should be noted that in the past the benefits which were envisaged have not been achieved.

 

 

Question 12: What are your views on powers in the Bill for Welsh Ministers to make subordinate legislation (i.e statutory instruments including regulations and orders) (section 5 of the Explanatory Memorandum)?
The Association agrees with the powers in the Bill for Welsh Ministers with regard to subordinate legislation. 

 

Question 13: Are there any other comments you wish to make about specific sections of the Bill?
The Association strongly objects to any proposal which gives the ability of the Commission to propose electoral divisions which straddle communities except where the Town or Community Council and the Community are in agreement.  The Association would like to see something in the Bill to cover this point.

 

The Association supports the idea of returning officers and polling station staff not being paid twice – ie they either do the job within their own daily work or they take holiday to cover it.

 

The original consultation response from the Association is attached at appendix 2.

 

 

 

 

Robert A Robinson FRICS AILCM
Secretary to the

North Wales Association of Town and Larger Community Councils