Carl Sargeant, the Minister for Local Government and Communities said that many of the proposals being put forward in the paper are designed to be included within an Assembly Bill – the Local Democracy (Wales) Bill – which the Minister intends to introduce in the autumn.
A key element of the Bill is in relation to how the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales operates. The Bill aims to redesign the rules within which the Commission operates and make reforms to the structure and functions of the Commission.
The White Paper also makes proposals aimed at:
- improving access to information about Town and Community Councils
- improving the effectiveness of electoral management in Wales, in terms of its organisation and funding, as well as encouraging high rates of voter registration;
- strengthening the scrutiny function of local government, to ensure it provides robust public accountability and drives public service improvement both locally and regionally;
- ensuring councillors receive improved levels of training and development, both in terms of their local leadership ability and their ability to act as effective community representatives when participating in local democratic processes.
Carl Sargeant said:
"This White Paper represents a further step in the Welsh Government’s drive to ensure that our local democracy operates as efficiently as possible to meet the challenges posed by the ongoing reforms to the delivery of public services.
"We need to ensure that our local authorities are democratically representative of their communities, are organised in the most effective way, communicate well with the public and have the necessary skills and knowledge to cope with changes in the way that services are being delivered to the public.
"Much of the content of this Paper has derived from the recommendations of the Mathias Report on the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales, which was published in June of last year. The report found that the Commission was, at that time, not fit for purpose and called for significant reforms to the methodology the Commission followed in conducting their reviews of electoral arrangements in each county.
"The White Paper proposes changes to the name, structure and functions of the Commission. The need remains to ensure that councils in Wales are democratically elected with, as far as possible, each councillor representing the same number of electors. But we need to do this while still recognising community ties. I hope that the proposals in this White Paper will help a revamped Commission to achieve this."