The WLGA today reaffirmed its commitment to reform as the Cabinet Secretary Mark Drakeford outlined his plans for local government.
Responding to the statement, WLGA Leader Councillor Debbie Wilcox (Newport), said: “Leaders have been in regular dialogue with Mark Drakeford over the regional reform agenda. I met with him recently and he has met with the WLGA Council in June and we have welcomed his approach to engagement. Our initial discussions have been based on mutual respect and a shared agenda around strengthening local democracy and improving public services. We are due to meet with the Cabinet Secretary again later this week to further discuss his proposals and to formalise our approach to partnership governance.”
“To date, we have been on the same wavelength when it comes to collaboration and reform; the Welsh Government recognises the progress that local authorities have already made themselves, but it wishes to see more consistency and more pace. Welsh councils have a track record of leadership and delivery on regional collaboration: the City Deals in Wales, some of the biggest and most ambitious regeneration programmes in decades, have come about because Welsh councils have shown courage and leadership to collaborate for the greater good.”
“The Cabinet Secretary has confirmed he intends to continue with his White Paper regional reforms, whilst allowing some local discretion and flexibility around certain services. Councils broadly supported the White Paper’s proposals, though we wish to explore the concept of ‘mandation’ in more detail. We are moving towards more collaborative and regionalised services already, but the WLGA has argued that any reform proposals must be underpinned by clear local accountability and that statutory duties and funding should continue to be routed through local authorities.”
In response to the consultation paper on Electoral Reform published earlier today, Cllr Wilcox added:
“The Welsh Government included some proposals for electoral reform in the White Paper earlier this year. Councils are of course keen to work with the Welsh Government and partners to improve and promote participation in local democracy and the WLGA has previously supported the calls for votes for 16 and 17 year olds. I was a teacher for 30 years and am convinced that 16-17 year olds are more than informed enough and mature enough vote in elections.”
“There are other proposals however which the WLGA did not support when previously consulted; the WLGA’s view was that there should be a common electoral system across all local authorities to avoid complexity and confusion and the WLGA did not support STV being introduced in local authorities. Some other electoral reform proposals are new, some have resourcing implications and some are more contentious than others, so we will need to consider the detail and discuss them with leaders in due course.”
“We look forward to continued constructive dialogue and working with the Cabinet Secretary and his colleagues in delivering a shared commitment to strengthening local democracy and ensuring public services meet the needs of the communities of Wales.”