COMMUNITY AND TOWN COUNCILS
DRAFT SUGGESTED RESPONSE
RESPONSE from The North and Mid Wales Association of Local Councils
STATUS AND APPLICATION
This guidance applies to Community and Town Councils in Wales.
It is issued, in part under section 55(1) of the Local Government
(Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013.When carrying out their duties
under section 55(1) of this Act Community and Town Councils
have a statutory duty to have regard to this guidance. This guidance
also applies to the provision made in the Act concerning public
notices, council meetings and proceedings and registers of members’
1.The Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013, referred to as
“the Act” throughout this guidance, gain ed Royal Assent on 30 July 2013.
Its primary purpose was to reform the constitution and functions of what
is now known as the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission.
The Act, however, introduced various other provisions connected with
2. Sections 55 to 58 of the Act are concerned with access to information,
and most particularly, access to information about Community Councils.
(For the purposes of this guidance, any reference to a Community Council
or Councils includes any Community, Town or City Council which serves
a community or grouped community and was established in accord with
Part II of the Local Government Act 1972 (“the1972 Act”).
3. In summary, the Act requires Community Councils to have
websites; to publish notices and papers electronically; and to
publish their register of members’ interests electronically (those
maintained under section 81 of the Local Government Act2000)
4. Section 55 of The Act requires Community Councils to publish
electronically information about how to contact it and, if different, its
clerk. The information which must be available electronically includes
a telephone number, a postal address and an email address.
5. In addition, the council must publish electronically information about
each of its members, including a list of the councils members, each
member’s name, their contact details, political affiliation (if any) and
any office held or committee they belong to within the council. If the
community concerned is divided into community wards, the ward
each member represents must be shown.
6. The Community Council must also publish electronically the minutes
of its meetings and, so far as reasonably practicable, documents referred
to at those meetings. They must also publish their annual audited
accounts electronically. In both these cases, councils are only required
to publish material produced after the date when section 55 came into
force. Community Councils are not required to publish any information
they are prevented from disclosing by any other legislation.
7. In carrying out its duties under Section 55, Community Councils must have regard to this guidance.
8. Under existing legislation Community Councils are required to post any public notices in one or more conspicuous places within their area, and anywhere else which appears to be desirable for giving publicity to the notice (section 232 of the 1972 Act). The Act places an additional requirement on Community Councils to publish any such notice electronically.
9. Existing legislation requires Community Councils to give notice of forthcoming council meetings three clear days before the meeting is to be held by displaying a notice in a conspicuous place in the community. The Act places an additional requirement for such notices to be published electronically. This must be done three clear days before the meeting. There is also a require ment to publish electronically, so far as is reasonably practicable, any documents relating to the business to be transacted at the meeting. This requirement does not apply where the documents relate to business which, in the opinion of the council, is likely to be transacted in private or where the disclosure of such documents would be contrary to any other legislation.
10. Under Schedule 12 to the Act a group of local government electors
may call a community meeting. Where a meeting has been convened
those convening the meeting must give notice to the Community Council
(if there is no Community Council established in the area notice must be
given to the principal council in whose area the community lies). Under the
new provisions, notice may be given to the Community Council either in writing
or electronically. Where it is given in electronic form the notice must comply
with the technical requirements set by the principalcouncil.
11.Community Councils and Principal Councils must provide a facility for
notices to be given electronically and public notice of the community meeting
must be published electronically as well as through traditional mediums.
12. Finally, the Act contains new requirements relating to the registration
of members’ interest. Section 81 of the Local Government Act 2000 requires
a Community Council (as well as other authorities) to maintain a register of
members’ financial and other interests as are specified in the model code of
conduct. Up until now, the register only needed to be available for inspection
at council offices. Provision made by the Act requires it also needs to be
published and available to access electronically.
13. It is a decision for each Community Council to take as to whether they
will operate their own, independent website, or whether they decide to link
up with other Community Councils in their area, or the principal council,
or some other body which is happy to host their site. It is, however, a requirement
there is a regularly updated website providing the public with the ability to
access the information described above.
local government generally and Community Councils in particular. We feel
it necessary for all local authorities to be contactable electronically and have
published information on the Internet. Local residents would expect to be
able to have this facility in this era.
15. The majority of Community Councils in Wales already have a presence
online and publish information electronically. Community Councils are urged
to seek assistance from One Voice Wales, their Principal Council or other reliable
sources if they need it to develop their web presence.
16. Under section 55, the Council must publish electronically its telephone number,
postal address and e-mail address on the website. The information must also be
available for the Council’s clerk if it is different to the Council’s contact details,
although a generic e-mail address which a member, perhaps the Chair, to the
council, could also use, would be advantageous. In some cases, the Community
Council will have its own, or a share of, offices and the telephone number,
postal address and e-mail address for these premises would be appropriate.
Councils will be expected, however, to have arrangements to ensure messages
are regularly retrieved and responded to.
17. It is not obligatory for individual members to have e-mail addresses. In a
Principal Council this would be expected because the Council itself can usually
provide e-mail addresses on the council’s site. However, the members’ names
must be listed and details of how they may be contacted must be available online.
Some councils will wish to place photographs of each member but this is a decision
18. The Act requires the political affiliation of the members of the council is published.
Some Community Councils choose not to do this at present. However, the
public has a right to know the political persuasions of those in elected office
or whether they are independent of any group. It is unacceptable for a member
to hide their political affiliation if they have been elected on a political ticket,
unless they have clearly breached with their political group since election.
19. If the Community Council is divided into community wards, the ward the member
represents must be published. If they hold office of some sort in the council or
belong to a council committee of some sort, it must be published on the site.
20. It is not necessary to delineate those members who were elected and those
subsequently co-opted to fill vacancies. Co-opted members are full members
of the council.
21. Paragraphs 4 to 12 above describe the documents which need to be posted
on the website. Councils should develop procedures for keeping their site in
good order, with past documents archived for a reasonable period, but easily accessible from the front page.
22. The Act provisions should be viewed as outlining the minimum requirements.
Many councils will want to place far more information than this on their webpages
and are encouraged to do so. Councils will need to have regard to the Code of
Recommended Practice for Local Authority Publicity when considering the
appropriateness of what they may wish to publish.
1.Do you agree that the draft Guidance is in keeping with the provisions of the
Local Government Democracy (Wales) Act 2013?
The Association agrees with the proposals in principle.
2. Are you content with the proposed draft guidance for access to information
on Town and Community
The Association agrees with the proposals in principle. However, many small
Town and Community Councils do not have the expertise to provide a web site
with updated information as proposed. This will have a cost implication to those
Councils and the Welsh Assembly should seriously consider awarding grant
aid to help where it is needed. The cost of such web sites of the type now required is often in excess of £3,000 and there also the cost of the time needed to keep it up to date.
3. Are there any issues not mentioned which you would like the Welsh
Government to take into account?
The provision of the information required to meet the requirements is beyond
what was originally proposed. The Association feels that name, contact details,
agenda, minutes and statutory documents should be the only legal requirement
for the web site provision. A list of Councillors should also be provided where
possible. The full requirements for the web site as proposed should only become
law after an extended period of time.
The Association does not support any move to publish notices on the Web Site
in place of notice boards & in the press, both are as important.
4. Should you have any related issues which we have not specifically addressed,
please let us know via the online response form
The Association would not support any proposal which seeks to remove the right
of members to receive their information in the traditional paper form. However,
the Association does support the right of members to receive their information
The Association would only support bi-lingual sites in full if the Welsh Assembly
made finance available to Local Councils to support such a requirement. The
Association would support a requirement to have such information available in
Welsh upon request.
The Association represents over 30 larger Town and Community Councils in
Mid and North Wales. The consultation was discussed in full at a meeting of
the membership and the responses reflect the views of the membership.
DRAFT ONLY – 21.6.2014