Rebecca Evans MS, Minister for Finance and Local Government
Community and town councils are the most local tier of local government. They can be proud of their ability to innovate and be creative in supporting their communities.
The use of digital technology enables opportunities to provide better, more efficient public services as well as enabling broader, more accessible participation in what councils do. However, in recognition of concerns regarding variable digital capability and capacity of the sector, the Local Government Chief Digital Officer’s (LGCDO) team have considered community and town councils’ current digital readiness.
I wish to extend my thanks to the community and town councils that have taken part in this research for sharing their experiences and views so constructively.
I am pleased to have received the LGCDO’s report, which has been published today. The research has confirmed significant variation across the sector. This is perhaps to be expected given the number and diversity of community and town councils in Wales. Whilst a number of councils indicated their digital arrangements have improved since the pandemic, and there is good practice to draw on, it is clear that action is needed to enable community councils to work confidently through digital means.
The LGCDO’s report contains a series of wide-ranging recommended areas for action, including in relation to:
- Clearly defining the digital requirements for community councils;
- Ensuring hybrid meetings and technological challenges are not a barrier to councils operating through the Welsh language;
- Tailoring training and support to specific roles within a council (e,g, chairs, councillors, officers);
- Ensuring fit-for-purpose digital infrastructure;
- Providing clear guidance and advice on suitable digital hardware and equipment;
- Building capacity and expertise across the sector;
- Culture change within the sector towards digital services;
- Enabling sharing of good practice.
I recognise and agree with the analysis. Crucially, these recommendations make it clear that it is not solely a task for Welsh Ministers. The response to this report needs to be co-constructed and co-delivered with partners from One Voice Wales and the Society for Local Council Clerks, drawing on the experience of the LGCDO. An internal working group, including representatives from these key partners and my officials, will now develop a sector-led plan of action. I have agreed an investment of up to £150,000 to support and inject pace into this work.