Alun Davies, Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services
This statement updates Assembly Members on the establishment of an independently chaired Working Group to develop a shared agenda for reform to deliver the strong local government, which is essential to the effective delivery of good quality, integrated public services to communities across Wales.
The working group will be chaired by Derek Vaughan MEP and membership will be drawn from local government, Welsh Government, Trade Union, business and third sector representatives.
Following the consultation on the Green Paper ‘Strengthening Local Government: Delivering for People’, the Welsh Government agreed not to proceed with comprehensive mergers as outlined in the Green Paper, on the basis of local government continuing to work with the Welsh Government to deliver reform.
The working group will develop our shared focus on progressing reform which helps improve the resilience of local government services, and which enhances local government’s role in place-shaping and furthering the ambitions of our communities. In doing so, we recognise that local government and the Welsh Government (and the National Assembly for Wales) have distinctive roles to play in the governance of Wales. This process will seek to develop shared understanding of those distinctive roles and what they imply for each other.
The Working Group’s core task is to develop a shared agenda for reform which ensures the sustainability of local service provision through: appropriate structures and processes – whether collaboration, shared services or voluntary mergers – all within the framework of democratic accountability and empowered by additional functions, powers and flexibilities, the appropriate financial framework and other tools or support necessary for change.
The main issues to be looked at by the working group include:
- Joint working and structures - to look for opportunities to simplify and integrate activities; establish the principles which should underpin further regional working; set out the key issues which potential merging authorities could use to test their case for change; and to advise on the practical action and any support required to make progress.
- Powers and flexibilities - to identify specific powers and flexibilities that would support local government in achieving its ambitions, and to explore whether current arrangements for policy development ensure local government’s voice and interests are heard and properly reflected in decisions.
- Active citizenship - to identify ways in which communities can be empowered to more meaningfully participate in local decision-making, to advise on achieving greater diversity in local government representation, and to consider how we might achieve greater diversity and capacity among elected members.
- Service change and the financial position - to focus on developing the case for investment in local government services because of the public value they generate.
- Mutual respect and shared responsibilities - to consider how mutual respect between elected representatives at a local and national level can be developed and embedded, ensuring greater consistency and better understanding of respective roles and responsibilities;
The working group will be able to draw on the considerable evidence which has been developed over the last few years on reform and on effective delivery. The working group’s focus, therefore, will be on determining what should be done in response to that evidence and not generating significant additional evidence themselves.
The output will be a pragmatic plan for change, co-produced between the Welsh Government and local government and to be implemented together.
The working group’s work will last for one year, concluding its work by summer 2019.
The working group will have a majority of local government members and will include Welsh Government and Trade Union, business and third sector representatives:
- Independent Chair – Derek Vaughan
- 6 leaders from Welsh Local Government:
- Cllr Debbie Wilcox (WLGA Leader)
- Cllr Andrew Morgan (WLGA Presiding Officer)
- Cllr Hugh Evans (WLGA Independent Group Leader)
- Cllr Emlyn Dole (WLGA Plaid Leader)
- Cllr Peter Fox (WLGA Conservative Group Leader)
- Cllr Rob Stewart (WLGA Deputy Leader)
- Welsh Government Minister - Alun Davies (other Cabinet Secretaries may be invited to attend, depending on the topic)
- One Union representative – Bethan Thomas (Unison)
- One Business representative – Michael Plaut (CBI Wales)
- One Third Sector representative – Gaynor Richards (NPT CVS)
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.