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Improving Local Democracy In Wales – Implementation of the Recommendations of the Commission on Local Government Electoral Arrangements in Wales

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Edwina Hart, Minister for Finance, Local Government and Communities
The Commission on Local Government Electoral Arrangements published its report on 3rd July 2002. This is an important report which makes significant recommendations on how we may improve our local democracy. I have taken action to ensure that these recommendations receive the fullest consideration and, where there is agreement, result in implementation.

This Report contained 33 recommendations in all. Some of these recommendations would require legislation in the UK Parliament; some might require Assembly legislation; and others can be implemented by the Assembly Government or local government under existing legislation. On a number of issues, there would be a role for the Electoral Commission.

Following the report I conducted a very wide consultation exercise on all the recommendations. Among those consulted were local government, political parties, the Electoral Commission, equality organisations, youth organisations, other relevant public bodies as well as members of the general public.

I reported the results of these consultations to the  Local Government and Housing Committee in December.  

I reported to the Committee that I intend to proceed now to the implementation of several of the recommendations.   To this end I have established a Working Group of officials from the Assembly Government, the Welsh Local Government Association, the Association of Electoral Administrators and the Electoral Commission to plan the implementation . They are due to provide me with an interim report on their progress towards the end of March and a final report in June of this year.

Among the recommendations were several requiring action on the part of local authorities. I have written to Sir Harry Jones, Leader of the Welsh Local Government Association, asking that  local authorities  implement a number of the recommendations that received widespread support in the consultation exercises conducted by the Commission and myself. Sir Harry Jones has responded that the Welsh Local Government Association were broadly favourable to many of the recommendations and expressed a particular interest to take forward the recommendations relating to widening participation and access to the electoral process.

I have also informed Professor Sunderland, the former Chairman of the Commission, of our progress and he has accepted my invitation to chair  the research study looking into the role, functions and future potential of town and community councils in Wales; thereby being a part of implementing his own recommendation.

In addition, earlier this month, I asked the Local Government and Housing Committee to consider the recommendation for a reduction in the voting and candidacy ages. There was unanimous approval of this proposal and I now intend to make appropriate representations to this effect.

The Electoral Commission have recently launched a review into voting and candidacy ages and I will ensure that they are aware of the recommendations of the Assembly’s Commission and the support within the Assembly.

The one recommendation on which there remains no consensus is that regarding the creation of multi-member wards and the election of councillors through a single transferable vote. The Local Government and Housing Committee has agreed that this matter should be left until after the Assembly elections in May 2003.