Agenda item

Local Government & Elections (Wales) Act 2021 - Implementation


The Head of Law and Regulation stated that this agenda item was presented to the Committee to make Members aware of the work involved in implementing the legislation.  Members have had seminars and information sessions on certain aspects of the Local Government and Elections Act in terms of corporate joint committees. However, there was a lot of detail and it was important to cover everything in terms of all the aspects of the legislation.


Points to Note:


·       The legislation was being brought into force in stages through various commencement orders.

·       The Implementation Schedule keeps track of what’s in force and when we must make the necessary amendments to comply.

·       There were areas where a political steer was needed, and the Democratic Services Committee also needed to be more actively involved and take this forward in terms of how much they wanted the public to be involved.

·       Would the Committee want members of the public to raise questions in Council or get the public involved in Scrutiny etc.

·       A petition scheme would also have to be published about how we receive and deal with petitions. There was a function for petitions to be posted online to the Council and the software could be adapted to allow this.

·       The new self-assessment process would have a significant impact on the Scrutiny committees which would link into public participation.

·       Policies could be developed by officers, but Members needed to inform officers as to what they wanted in the developed policies.





·       Councillor M. Evans stated that they were keen to ensure a system was created where the public could ask questions to Cabinet etc, and that the public had the opportunity to do this. However, it was important to be mindful of the single-issue person that doesn’t speak for everyone and if the public were able to ask questions, then it needed to ensure that it was not a single issue. Councillor M. Evans also referred to petitions and stated that there maybe needed to be a Petitions Committee like what Welsh Government has. Councillor M. Evans also asked about job sharing for the Leader and Cabinet Members and how would those roles be accountable as a job share and how this would work. Councillor M. Evans mentioned the elections moving from a 4 to a 5-year term but it was thought that this was already agreed and also in relation to the 2 voting systems- Majority or a Single Vote, do the Council decide on this prior to the elections.



The Head of Law and Regulation stated that job sharing was in the legislation and was part of the Diversity/Equality principles and the legislation enabled it for executive officers and members. In relation to the point on the voting system, when Welsh Government was consulted, we were not in favour of this regarding first past the post or proportional representation as it was felt that it was too divisive and too confusing. However, it was in the legislation and it was for the Council to take a view and the public would need to be consulted on this before it was carried out.  There were also restrictions on how often this was changed. The Council could then decide if they preferred to move from a first past the post to a single vote system. 


·       Councillor M. Evans commented that if 20/30 responses were received on the voting system and they all wanted a single transferrable vote would the Council take a decision on this prior to the election.


The Head of Law and Regulation stated that it was a decision for the Council to take but we were still waiting on guidance as to how this would work in practice. It would need a special majority of Council to vote that through and the political will to take it forward. The process of change was very difficult to go through and it had to be a democratic decision to take.


The Head of Law and Regulation also explained that in relation to job sharing that this was the right of the Members and Council could not take a view for the Leader to not be able to do it as it was the choice of the individual.


·       Councillor M. Evans asked that if the Chief Executive decided to job share, would members of the Council have any say in this.


The Head of Law and Regulation stated that members of staff could apply to job share but if people were refused job share then it could be a form of indirect discrimination if people were having work life balance difficulties but if job sharing affected the role it could be refused.


·       Councillor T. Watkins asked as to when the act had to all be in place and the Head of Law and Regulation confirmed that May 2022 was the end date.


·       Councillor C. Evans stated that the Committee was tasked with meaningful issues and that a more cooperative approach was needed for the full term and that the Committee needed to come up with a plan on specific areas and what we would like to do. One of those being how to involve the public in full Council and Scrutiny Committees and could the Committee task officers to look at best practices by other Councils, UK wide and perhaps have a subcommittee and ultimately make recommendations to full Council.  


The Head of Law and Regulation agreed that research could be carried out by the Democratic Services Teams Graduate Trainee. Research could be carried out on public engagement and how it would work, and it was up to the Democratic Services Committee to decide how to engage.  Background information could be researched and fed back to the Committee. A Task group could be set up, but it was suggested that this Committee would need to meet up more regularly to collaborate on terms of participation strategies etc.


·       Councillor C Evans wanted to propose this as a starting point to look at similar sized Councils to Newport. Councillor C Evans made the point that party leaders needed to be informed at each stage of proposals with a properly working document for the senior political leaders to look at e.g., a flow chart.


·       Councillor C. Evans proposed that officers looked at best practice as a single issue as we would have to look at it in some detail.


The Chair asked as to who would form the task force group or whether Members favoured a committee.


·       Councillor C. Evans explained that they had mentioned a task and finish group as it was a cohesive process for a task group but that the Committee would be committed to follow through on this issue.


·       Councillor J. Clarke stated that job sharing was common in large corporations and it was something that they would embrace. In relation to engagement of the public what was key was gaining trust and transparency so there were some very big decisions to be made by this Committee. Councillor Clarke agreed that public engagement needed to be done correctly and it could not be just the one individual person bringing up issues again that were already dealt with.


·       Councillor Hourihane stated that caution should be advised as they stated that when they used to visit district councils in sitting and one of these was the first one to have a public Q&A session, these became political opposition slots and didn’t make meetings democratic but made Councillors more vocal and this needed to be considered if Council meetings were going to be open to the general public, would it be taken over by people that may not have been elected as they may see this as getting their point put forward.


·       Councillor K. Thomas stated that the public may appear at Council meetings if the item was contentious which was fine, but it would maybe be better if public members let their local Councillor know of their feelings prior to Council. Councillor K. Thomas stated that all the Councillors were democratically elected even though from different parties, and Councillors were there to listen to constituents.


·       Councillor T. Watkins said that they were all for the Committee looking at this and that as the Local Government act would be phased in, the Committee could look at these phases as they occur to decide on that module and also asked would Newport City Council ratify the individual models or would it have to wait until the end to have it ratified by Council. 


The Head of Law and Regulation confirmed that this could work either way, at the end of this process there was an obligation to redraft the constitution and to produce a summary guide to the constitution. This was a requirement in the legislation and WLGA was coordinating this nationally but there was no reason why this couldn’t be fed back incrementally.


If the Committee was happy with the recommendations agreed on, then this could be taken to Council now and maybe the constitution could be brought to Council later at the end of the process. However, any decisions ratified in the meantime could be taken to Council.


·       Councillor C. Evans stated that this was a journey and that when an issue was raised there was a forensic approach by the Committee which was the right approach.


·       Councillor M. Evans suggested that Cabinet Questions could also be looked at as well as Questions for Council.


·       Councillor C. Evans reiterated the step-by-step approach mentioned and that 2 areas would be looked at which was agreed were public questions and petitions to report back on and was it best to maybe widen scope to other areas later.


·       Councillor K. Thomas stated that they were not sure this was agreed as the Graduate Trainee would look at proposals and then look at best practice and there were not specific areas mentioned. 


The Head of Law and Regulation advised that the Committee should not get too focused on Questions at Council as this was just an example, as a holistic approach would be more favoured, to look at other areas of the UK and how they do public consultations generally.


Councillor T. Watkins asked how long this process would take. 


The Head of Law and Regulation stated that it was not to be rushed, it would be comprehensive and would be ready for the next meeting. After that the Committee could meet more regularly.



The Members of the Democratic Services committee agreed for research on best practice in other Councils.



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