In this section
Section highlightHouses into homes This report details findings to emerge from the evaluation during the first six months of delivery (April to September 2012).
Written Statement - Update on tobacco policy »Standardised packaging of tobacco products and Sub Committees on The Smoke-free Premises etc. (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.Learn more »
Living Longer: Ageing Well
The third phase of the Welsh Government’s pioneering Strategy for Older People in Wales has been launched.
- ‘Enterprise Troopers’ set to storm Wales’ primary schools
- “Wales is leading the way on Sustainable Procurement” – Jane Hutt
- Living Longer: Ageing Well
In this section
- Business and economy
- Children and young people
- Culture and sport
- Education and skills
- Environment and countryside
- Equality and diversity
- Health and social care
- Housing and community
- Improving public services
In this section
Section highlightAccess to information
The Welsh Government has followed the principles of openness in government for many years. Find out how you can make a freedom of information request or see requests that have already been made.
Sky lanterns: environmental and risk assessment »To establish an evidence base to help any future policy decisions on sky lanterns and helium balloons.Learn more »
- Higher Education (Wales) Bill: Technical consultation
- Renting Homes White Paper
- Continuity and Change - Refreshing the Relationship between Welsh Government and the Third Sector in Wales
- Strategic Environmental Assessment: Environmental Report, Rural Development Plan for Wales 2014-2020
- The draft School Governors’ Annual Reports (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2013
- The future of agricultural statistical data collection methods in Wales
Featured consultation »Implementing the Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure 2011
25 days left
In this section
Section highlightFurther and Higher Education (Governance and Information) (Wales) Bill 2013
Removes a number of technical restrictions and controls on colleges without changing the principal powers of colleges to provide further, higher and secondary education.
Legislative programme 2012 - 2013 »
Addressing the Assembly in the Senedd today, the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, detailed the eight bills in the Welsh Government’s 5-year Legislative Programme that will be brought forward during the second year of the Welsh Assembly.Learn more »
Section highlightCommunity Infrastructure Levy
Local authorities can charge a Community Infrastructure Levy on new developments to support the infrastructure needed.
2nd Supplementary Budget 2012-13 »
Proposes a number of changes to the 1st Supplementary Budget for 2012-13, which was published on 26 June 2012.Learn more »
Statement on the Welsh Assembly Government`s response to the Local Government and Public Services Committee`s Report on the Operation of New Political Management Structures in Local Government
This is a welcome and timely report into the health of decision-making procedures in local government. It is a good piece of work, based on thorough research and evidence gathering, and which reaches positive and clear conclusions. It is timely because we have just had elections to all the county and county borough councils in Wales, which makes it an excellent time to review the lessons of the last few years and to see whether any changes are required to existing practices, which can be taken on board by the new regimes.
The introduction of new political structures through the provisions of the Local Government Act 2000 marked a radical change in the way local government did business. For the first time, the public were able to tell precisely who was responsible for major decisions; in many cases, the individual councillor who had made them. This made the system more transparent. Decision making by cabinets, or cabinet members, is more likely to be a speedier process than before, which suggests greater efficiency.
I am also aware that the introduction of new structures has not been without its problems, some of which relate to what all the councillors who are not members of the cabinet or board do with their time. I am pleased that the Local Government and Public Services Committee has been able to consider issues in detail. It has taken a practical approach, not seeking to turn back the clock, but to make improvements where they are needed. As a member of that committee, I want to thank it for its work and its approach, which has been painstaking.
My written statement explains what I propose to do in detail in response to the report. There is no point in going through every detail now. I do not reject any recommendations. Some of them require work with our partners in local government and the Welsh Local Government Association to improve the education and development of elected members, particularly the new influx from last month. Others address how councils conduct themselves and let others know what they are doing and how.
I am pleased that the committee has turned a lot of its attention to the scrutiny function, which is unsurprising given that it is a major role of the subject committee. Other than in the case of those councils in Wales operating the fourth option, where procedures are largely governed by our regulations, the Assembly has little statutory power over the operation of scrutiny arrangements. I hope that we can persuade local government and strengthen our guidance to bring about the adoption of best practice throughout Wales. I would like to discuss further with the Audit Commission before moving on this because it has looked in detail at how best practice operates on the ground.
A particularly thorny issue is the allocation of chairs of scrutiny committees. In the fourth option, these are already allocated according to political balance, but there have been problems elsewhere. In some cases, opposition parties refused to take committee chairs. In others, for whatever reason, controlling parties did what they had always done under the old committee system and allocated chairs to their own members.
The report correctly points to Westminster as having the power, if it wished to change this. I do not believe that good scrutiny chairs cannot come from a controlling party—and I am sure most Assembly Members will agree with me on that—but it is important that the public perception of scrutiny is not that of a stitch-up. Therefore, I support the idea of allocating chairs according to political balance, or even beyond political balance where there is a large majority for the controlling group. I will ensure that the guidance is strengthened and that discussions are held with the WLGA and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to consider legislating on this matter.
Councils should not be afraid of effective scrutiny. I know that it has been a new concept for them but, ultimately, it should lead to better decisions. I will not commit myself outright on the issue of the chair’s power to block call-ins. I agree with the principle and the thinking involved but, again, I will take the views of local government and the Audit Commission on that. In supporting the scrutiny process, we should also ensure safeguards against its abuse, and I would not want to open a door that might lead to frivolous referrals, disrupting the efficiency of the council.
Finally, I will comment on the proposal that we liberalise the rules on changing arrangements. At the time that the existing regulations were introduced, there was good reason to make them fairly restrictive. My predecessor wanted to allow a period of time during which authorities—not all of which had greeted new structures with open arms—would make their new constitutions work, but allow them to make changes of a secondary nature, some of which would require Assembly approval. The situation in England was different—they were dealing with hundreds of councils, of different types and sizes, and it would not have been practical to run such a tight ship.
The situation in Wales has changed. We have had a few years of stability, but we have also had some fairly dramatic changes in the political make-up of our councils. Understandably, some of them want to make changes to their constitutional arrangements. I want to give them the freedom to do so, subject to public consultation and Assembly approval for the most significant changes, particularly those involving a change to the basic political model. I will be proposing changes to the regulations in due course. I will report to the Local Government and Public Services Committee on the progress that I have made in response to all of its recommendations.