The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill – containing measures affecting elections, democracy, performance and governance – has been passed in the Senedd.
The Welsh Government highlighted how the Bill would:
- require councils to consult and publish a public participation strategy “with the aim of making it easier for local people to understand how local government functions”;
- promote the use of petitions within local government;
- require principal councils to live broadcast meetings of their full council that are open to the public electronically and to make the broadcast available electronically for a reasonable period after the meeting;
- enable people attending community council meetings to have greater opportunity to make representations during meetings about any business;
- allow for remote attendance at community and town council meetings;
- reduce the voting age in local government elections to 16 and 17 year-olds;
- extend the franchise to foreign citizens legally resident in Wales,;
- support greater diversity amongst elected members in principal councils by providing for job-sharing by office holders, more flexible remote working and updating family absence provisions.
Minister for Housing and Local Government Julie James said: “The ways in which we live and work in Wales are constantly changing and our public service organisations are working hard to keep pace with that change. I believe we now have a Bill which will deliver effective reform and has been designed with local government. Anything we do to achieve greater accessibility and improved public participation in local government will be hugely valuable to Welsh democracy.
“The Bill ensures that local authorities can take a lead in making the arrangements that ensure the regions of Wales can take responsibility for their shared interest in transport planning, land use planning and economic development. This is the next step in devolution in which Welsh Government supports the regions of Wales in exercising control over what matters to them.
“Some provisions in the Bill, particularly the introduction of the general power of competence and corporate joint committees, will enable councils to build on the innovation and joint working which has been central to dealing with the pandemic.”