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Agenda Item No. 7

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Community Liaison Committee - 8th July, 2014

 

Report of the Head of Democratic Services

 

Access to Information on Community and Town Councils

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To apprise Members of draft Statutory Guidance issued for consultation purposes by the Welsh Government.

Recommendation

THAT the Committee consider the draft Statutory Guidance in order that any views expressed by the Committee can be forwarded to the Cabinet / Welsh Government.

Reason for the Recommendation

To facilitate the submission of any views the Committee might have to the Cabinet / Welsh Government.

 

Background

2.         Attached for the Committee's information and consideration is a copy of draft Statutory Guidance issued by the Welsh Government.  The document was issued directly to Town and Community Councils on 12th May, 2014, with a deadline for responses of 4th August, 2014.  Obviously, individual Town and Community Councils, therefore, have the opportunity to submit any comments directly to the Welsh Government.  However, the document is also being submitted to this Committee in order that any 'generic' areas can be discussed.

Relevant Issues and Options

3.         Sections 55 - 58 of the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 require Town and Community Councils to have websites, to publish notices and papers electronically and to publish their Register of Members' Interests.  In circulating the draft Statutory Guidance, the Welsh Government has invited any comments or questions, together with views as to whether the guidance is 'clear and useful'.

4.         In anticipation of the above legislative provisions, the Welsh Government in March 2013 provided grants to Principal Councils in Wales, partly to provide assistance of £500 per Council to Town and Community Councils for website development.  The Council subsequently wrote to all Town and Community Councils in the Vale of Glamorgan formally offering each Council the £500 grant.  The letter made it clear that, under the conditions of the grant specified by the Welsh Government, the funding could only be spent on development of a website.  Councils who already had a website at that time were not excluded from taking advantage of the grant provision.  It was made clear in the letter that the funding was tied into the fact that the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Bill, which was under consideration at the time, contained provisions which would require each Town and Community Council to publish certain information on a website.  That Bill has now been enacted and the draft Statutory Guidance is directly linked to progressing this matter. 

5.         23 of the 26 Town and Community Councils in the Vale of Glamorgan accepted the offer of the £500 grant.  The provisions contained in the Act apply irrespective of whether the grant offer was accepted.  The intention of the Welsh Government is that the requirements of the Act as set out in Sections 55-58 will come into effect from May 2015.

6.         The specific requirements which Councils will be required to meet are referred to in the draft Statutory Guidance.  The guidance recognises the fact that the majority of Town and Community Councils in Wales already have a presence on-line and publish information electronically.

7.         At the end of the draft Statutory Guidance there are four specific questions which the Committee may wish to consider.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

8.         As indicated above, the availability of a grant for each Town and Community Council was designed to assist Councils in meeting the relevant requirements.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

9.         There are no direct implications arising from the report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

10.      Town and Community Councils are required to comply in particular with the relevant requirements of the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 and any other relevant legislation having a bearing thereon.

Crime and Disorder Implications

11.      There are no direct implications arising from the report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

12.      There are no direct implications arising from the report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

13.      Development of Town and Community Council websites is in accord with the Council's own stated objective in the Corporate Plan 2013-17 to "Develop and promote the website and social media to enable the public to contact and access Council services as much as possible online".

Policy Framework and Budget

14.      The terms of reference of the Committee are " (1) To discuss matters of mutual concern............  (2) To refer, as appropriate, reports / recommendations to Cabinet".

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

15.      No consultation has been necessary, given that the draft Statutory Guidance has been issued directly by the Welsh Government to Town and Community Councils.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

16.      Corporate Resources.

Background Papers

Welsh Government Draft Statutory Guidance: 12th May, 2014.

 

Contact Officer

Jeff Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services (tel: 01446 709408).

 

Officers Consulted

Operational Manager Legal Services

Managing Director

 

Responsible Officer:

Jeff Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services

 

 

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