Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 8TH SEPTEMBER, 2014
REFERENCE FROM COMMUNITY LIAISON: 8TH JULY, 2014
185 REQUEST FOR CONSIDERATION FROM BARRY TOWN COUNCIL – THE WILLIAMS COMMISSION REPORT (MD) –
Barry Town Council had requested in a letter dated 14th April 2014, a copy of which was attached to the report at Appendix A, that the item be placed on an agenda for the next meeting of the Community Liaison Committee.
The Williams Commission on Public Governance and Delivery was set up by Welsh Government and reported in January 2014, making a number of recommendations. Among those recommendations was that Town and Community Councils should be merged to form larger authorities (as was also recommended for Unitary Councils). Since January 2014 the report has been the subject of discussion within political parties in Wales, but Welsh Government had not formally responded to it. It was understood that Welsh Government would shortly be setting out its response and issuing a White Paper on changes to be made to local government. Until this response was published the report had no formal status and remained simply the views of the Commission
The Member for Barry Town Council expressed concern with regard to statements that had been made by Welsh Government in response to the Williams Commission report before their official response, and to the fact that Town and Community Councils had not been consulted on the report. The Member stated that it was clear that the report specified that 22 local authorities were unacceptable and that there would be definite implications for Town and Community Councils. This would also therefore have implications for the Charter between the Vale of Glamorgan Council and the Town and Community Councils within the Vale. The Member queried what would happen with the Charter and expressed concern about the future of joint working and the impact on the provision of direct services to the public. The Head of Improvement and Development agreed that the Williams Commission report would have significant implications if its recommendations were made statutory; however Welsh Government’s intentions were not yet known and therefore the Vale of Glamorgan Council was unable to formulate a programme of actions at present.
Another Member from Barry Town Council further stated that they felt there had been a missed opportunity in that Town and Community Councils across the Vale had not been asked for their input into the Williams Commission report and that their views should have been requested. This was duly accepted by both Vale Council members and Town and Community Council members. The report had also highlighted that more responsibilities should be given to Town and Community Councils with some Members commenting that some responsibilities may be difficult for smaller community councils to take on. There was also the view that Town and Community Council’s and the Vale Council could be â€œswallowed upâ€ by a merger with Cardiff.
The Member from Penarth Town Council informed the Committee that following on from meetings with One Voice Wales and the Minister, the views of Town and Community Councils were being taken more seriously with One Voice Wales’ Policy focusing on collaboration between Town and Community Councils as they disliked the idea of mergers.
A Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council stated that the Vale Council should work in collaboration with Town and Community Councils to formulate a joint response / approach to the Williams report. The issue of Town and Community Councils not being able to vote at Community Liaison Committee meetings was also raised, with the Chairman informing Committee that any agreement or dissent via a show of hands was always conveyed to Cabinet in the minutes of the meetings as appropriate.
A Member asked whether the Vale of Glamorgan Council was carrying out any work on a voluntary merger in light of the Williams report and stated that they had hoped this was not the case particularly as there were forthcoming Welsh Assembly elections and that unitary authorities should not be bound with regard to issues surrounding mergers. The Chairman advised that at a recent Council meeting the Council had clearly indicated that it did not wish to merge with Cardiff. He could also confirm that the Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council had been involved in neither public nor private discussions with Cardiff in relation to a voluntary merger and that this would not happen and furthermore, that the Leader was the first Leader in Wales to oppose the Williams Commission report for many reasons and that any discussions would not be happening with Cardiff County Council or with Welsh Government.
At the conclusion of the debate it was suggested that Cabinet be requested to undertake further dialogue with Town and Community Councils in respect of the matter as they had felt they had not been included in any debate on the issue.
Following consideration of the report, it was subsequently unanimously,
(1) T H A T the report of the Williams Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery as it related to Town and Community Councils and Barry Town Council’s response to the Report be noted.
(2) T H A T the above views of the Community Liaison Committee be forwarded for their consideration.
(3) T H A T Cabinet be requested to approach Town and Community Councils in the Vale of Glamorgan to seek their views on the implications of the Williams Commission Report with a view to supporting a joint approach.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) In view of the contents contained therein.
(2&3) In order that an exchange of views can be maintained.â€
Attached as Appendix - Report to Community Liaison: 8th July 2014