LOCAL COUNCIL ELECTIONS IN WALES (MAY 2012)

Be a Councillor – Candidates Guide: Welsh Local Elections 2012

 

1. Why become a councillor?

If you are reading this guide, the chances are you are already interested in becoming a councillor.

There are many reasons why people decide to stand for election as a councillor, but the common driving factor is a desire to help improve people’s lives or to put something back into the local community.

For many people, it may be an extension of what they are already doing, whether voluntary work with local community groups, school governing bodies, trade union activity, community councils or through their employment which may involve partnership work with their local council.

Typically, some of the reasons for becoming a councillor include:

  • wanting to make a difference and help shape the future of the local community;
  • to raise or tackle concerns about particular local issues, such as support for local businesses, the local environment or local community facilities and services;
  • representing the views of their neighbours, friends and the wider community or providing a voice to particular under-represented groups;
  • following political beliefs or supporting a particular Political Party; and
  • developing personal or business skills.

Beacouncillor top tips“The most important part of being a member for me is the chance to improve things in my community and make a real difference to resident’s lives”

 

2. What do councillors do?

There are a wide range of public perceptions about what councillors do on a day to day basis.

In reality, councillors have to juggle a number of roles and responsibilities and no day is the same. Councillors need to balance the needs and interests of their community, their political party or group (if they are a member) and the council as a whole. Being a councillor takes personal commitment and to do the role effectively requires a significant amount of time, on top of personal and employment commitments. However, becoming a councillor is a rewarding and privileged form of public service. You will be in a position to make a difference to the quality of other people’s daily lives and prospects.

Councillors are people elected to represent their local community in the running of their local council. As a councillor you would have an important role in the major decisions that affect people’s lives. Local councils are responsible for a whole range of services; waste, recycling and environmental services, schools, social services, planning, housing, benefits, libraries, transport, leisure facilities and many more. As a councillor you will help determine the way these services are provided, funded and prioritised.

Your influence will make a difference to the quality of people’s lives and where they live. You will need to balance the best interests of your community or ward residents, the wider borough or county residents, your political party (if you have one), and the council.

All councillors are advocates for their communities and are ‘case workers’ for their individual constituents when advice or support is requested. Whilst councillors do spend time in council meetings, much of a councillor’s time is spent within their communities speaking and working with members of the public and community groups.

Councillors’ roles in the council vary within the governance structures of the Council. The Council will have a constitution setting out decision-making structures and procedures, terms of reference of internal committees, roles and responsibilities of individual positions of office, standing orders for meetings, codes of conduct and financial regulations.

All councillors are members of the full Council which sets the overall policies and budget. A small number of councillors will form the cabinet or executive board with all other members being active in the overview and scrutiny of the performance of the Council, other organisations and external bodies. There are regulatory committees which deal with the planning and licensing functions. Councillors are also appointed to external local bodies such as school governing bodies and local partnerships, either as representatives of the Council, as trustees or directors in their own right. Some councillors also sit on police authorities, fire and rescue authorities and, where relevant, national park authorities.

A common role for all councillors however, irrespective of any formal position or membership of a committee is that of ‘community leadership’. For the individual councillor, being a community leader can mean a number of things. Acting as an advocate for the best interests of one’s ward; lobbying for local concerns; influencing partner organisations to work to a common vision; resolving conflict amongst community organisations; encouraging community organisations to develop solutions in their own communities; balancing competing demands for resources when making decisions in the best interests of the whole authority area.

Beacouncillor top tips“Inexperience is a virtue as effective challenge can come from the new elected member, you have a fresh approach. Challenge is important and so are politeness and research.”

 

A week in the life …..

To give you an idea of what it’s like to be a councillor here are some real life examples of typical ‘weeks in the life’ of a councillor:

Monday

Working at home today. Go for a walk around the village and notice that someone has slyly disposed of rubbish on a public footpath. Call into the Memorial Hall where the builder is starting an improvement scheme today (arrange to take photos Friday). Send e-mail to council about the rubbish on the public footpath. Leave home at 6.15pm to travel to a meeting of the Political Group. Give lift to three other councillors. Back home at 10.00pm.

Tuesday

Get up early to do house work. Leave home at 8.45am and notice that rubbish has been left after cutting grass verges of main road. Phone council. Working today so in the Lunch hour, call in to visit the firm that is updating our village website. Back home at 5.00pm – deal with e-mail from constituent about the building site next door to him. Go for a walk to see the site. From 6.00pm onwards – time with family.

Wednesday

Day at the Office and in the evening meeting of village environmental group to discuss running a stall at a festival.

Thursday

No work today as I only do three days a week. Get up early to take my daughter to school by 7.00am Leave home at 9.15am to go to WLGA Conference in Llandudno. Lunch time – phone conversation with officer about problems at the building site. Phone the paper to confirm photo session for tomorrow. Leave at 4.30pm and go to School governors meeting. Home by 7.00pm. Deal with e-mails between 8.00pm and 9.00pm.

Friday

9.30am – meeting with community policeman at community centre. 10.00am – over to the Memorial Hall to meet the builder and take photos for the paper. 10.30am till midday – meeting of community councillors and committee at community centre. I’m there every Friday morning to deal with ward matters. Friday afternoon – free time 4.00pm till 5.00pm – deal with e-mails, conversation with correspondent about the Memorial Hall. Go out for a meal with my four children as it’s my birthday tomorrow!

Saturday

Weather great and get chance to go for a walk and relax with friends. Discussion about recycling bins with constituent at the pub in the evening and chat with chairman of the football club about their new kitchen… and various other ward matters (that’s the trouble with going for a pint in the village!)

Sunday

Day with the family. Go for a walk in the evening. 8.00pm till 10.00pm – read committee papers for next week, organize next week’s schedule, do paperwork and deal with e-mails.

 

 

Monday

Drove 45 miles for a meeting, with a fellow-councillor from another party. This allowed us to reduce our carbon footprint, discuss the meeting agenda and share ideas on current issues facing local government. The meeting was one of a series of an Improvement Working Groups set up to examine how the running of Arts, Archives, Libraries and Museum Services could be improved and a substantial savings made. After the meeting, which I chaired, the Group visited and spoke to staff at the highly rated Archives Unit and a Quaker Museum I’m also a member of a city council , with the press regularly attending its meetings . In the evening, I attended one of its planning meetings.

Tuesday

Took the bus (carbon footprint again!) for a meeting of the Development Scrutiny Committee, whose role is to contribute constructively to policy and apply a critical eye to the Council’s performance in areas of social and economic development. Today we progressed a proposal to establish a Local Loans Fund for small firms in examined collaboration with not –for-profits organisations in the ‘Third Sector’, and had a detailed look at annual departmental targets, most of which had been achieved, but particularly at those which had not.

Wednesday

Morning: Consultation Workshop, led by the Leader and Chief Exec, to assess the risks and prioritise options for improving the Authority

Thursday

Morning: Chaired a meeting of the Principal Scrutiny Committee, in which we took a hard look at the reasons for serious overspend in Social Services and recommended to the executive measures to prevent it recurring and agreed, with difficulty, on reduced allocations to local voluntary groups On the policy side, we set up six working groups to examine ways of improving specific services to the public. A very leisurely afternoon, followed by party political meeting in the evening.

Friday

After attending an inspiring session with organisers of the Queens Award for Voluntary Service and local groups which had won it, I walked round our ward, checking improvements to one street had been done, arranging by mobile phone to have several cases of flying-tipping cleared. I also spoke to landlords I met about a new system designed to improve the condition of rented properties and help tenants, mostly students, to fit into local society better than many do at present.

 

3. What do councils do?

There are 1264 councillors on the 22 unitary councils and some 8000 councillors also serve on 735 community and town councils. Wales’ 22 local authorities play a central role in the governance of Wales. Welsh local government provides the leadership and services necessary for successful local economies and sustainable local communities. Welsh councils spend over £8 billion and employ over 150,000 people in delivering vital public services that impact on everyone’s everyday lives.

Councils are by far the biggest employer in their area and contribute significantly to the local economy. Councils provide a wide range of personal, community and environmental services for individuals and whole communities from ‘the cradle to the grave’. Welsh local government is responsible for delivering a wide range of services and functions, including:

  • Education
  • Housing
  • Social Services
  • Highways and Transport
  • Waste management
  • Leisure & Cultural services
  • Consumer protection
  • Environmental Health
  • Planning
  • Economic Development
  • Environmental Services; and
  • Emergency Planning

Councils have to provide certain statutory services as set out in legislation and can provide other services at their discretion. Councils have statutory responsibilities to provide local services such as social care and environmental health inspection and planning development management.

Councils provide some services directly, work in partnership with other organisations, and commission others to provide services on their behalf, such as the private and third sectors. Councils are not motivated by profit although they do provide some trading services such as catering, and services for which there are private sector alternatives such as leisure centres.

The funding for much of councils’ functions and service provision is through funding from the Welsh Government, mainly the Revenue Support Grant (RSG), supplemented by specific grants, Business Rates, earned income (such as car parking charges) and, of course, council tax. Councils currently have a significant amount of local flexibility around how they prioritise and spend their resources. The biggest spending services are education, social services and housing. Despite being one of the most contentious taxes, council tax is probably the most transparent and visible tax in the UK – everyone knows how much council tax they pay, and what it is spent on as councils provide this information with council tax bills. How many people know how much VAT or fuel duties people pay per year, or indeed what services this tax is then spent on?

People can also challenge their council tax banding if they believe it to be incorrect and can also apply for a range of discounts and support depending on individuals’ personal circumstances. Council tax represents only 4.2% of national taxation in the UK and funds on average only 20% of local council expenditure in Wales. The council tax helps pay for police officers and fire-fighters, as well as the broad range of council services.

More than just a service deliverer…

Councils are democratically representative of their local communities and promote participation in local democracy by local people. This is of course the central role of elected councillors.

Councils are central to the lives and futures of the communities they serve and have a unique power of community leadership. Community leadership means defining a vision for the community and working in partnership with a range of public sector, third sector and private sector partners to fulfil that vision. In practice this is achieved through partnerships, mutually agreed strategies, joint working and the pooling of resources.

Councils have a statutory power to promote the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of their areas which is usually expressed through the Community Strategy. The council has a duty to produce a Community Strategy which should bring together all partners and provide the longterm vision and direction for the whole of a local area. Underneath this overarching plan, the council also prepares a number of other key strategies, including a Local Development Plan, Children and Young Peoples’ Strategy and a Heath and Well-being Strategy.

Councils have legal and moral duties to promote equality of opportunity and should be sensitive to the diverse needs for local services within their communities. The council has responsibilities to promote equalities as a provider of services, as a democratic body which is representative of all interests in the community, as a major employer and as a community leader.

In Wales there is a unique legal duty to promote sustainable development across all statutory bodies including councils. There are environmental limits which must underpin everything that councils and citizens do. A sustainable local government approach therefore should plan for prosperity not wealth, and offer sufficient local services and resources, whilst also understanding the need to live within environmental limits.

The public service delivery ‘architecture’ is evolving. Whilst councils are responsible for the provision of many services, they are not always delivered by the council and may be delivered by third sector or private sector or partners jointly with other authorities or agencies. The scale of services is also changing, with an increasing emphasis and expectation from the Welsh Government that certain services, such as education, waste and social services, should be delivered jointly or across regions.

Beacouncillor top tips“Find out what scrutiny committees exist in the council and the type of work they do (via the council website) so that when you are asked for a preference you will be well informed.”

 

4. What will be expected of me?

The expectations placed on a councillor are considerable. It is a time consuming as well as responsible job but with significant rewards. As an elected member you will need to balance your time between working in your community and working in the council and accommodate your work as a councillor alongside the ‘day job’ if you are working. Before you consider becoming a councillor you may want to discuss it with your family and friends to ensure that they understand that you will need their support and understanding. You may be spending a lot of your spare time on council business. It is estimated that on average, councillors spend the equivalent of three days a week on council business. Many employers recognise the value of the work of councillors and the skills that their employees will gain in the role and therefore provide time off or flexibility for you to undertake your council duties.

When you are first elected as a councillor, it has been described as ‘like the first day at a new school, you may not know who anyone is, where you need to go or what you are supposed to do’. There is plenty of help and advice at hand from officers, other experienced elected members, your political party or group and from national organisations.

Once elected, you will become the voice for everyone in your community or electoral division often referred to as a ‘ward’ by many councillors; individuals, groups, businesses and even those who did not vote for you. The aspects of a councillor’s role that residents consider most important are ward-related activities such as holding regular surgeries and helping local people with complaints or problems. You need to speak to the community and be clear about the needs and feelings of constituents. You will not be able to help everyone in the way they would want but you need to be honest and open about your decision making and make sure residents’ views are heard – you are their voice in the council.

You will also need to be able to convey the policies and standpoint of the council to the community, making sure that they understand why, for example, decisions have been taken. Being a councillor is a privileged and rewarding role but it requires commitment, patience and resilience and can be demanding and stressful.

In order to help you manage your role as a councillor, you should:

  • Hold surgeries – regularly and often. Make sure they are promoted in advance and are held in accessible locations at convenient times
  • Send newsletters, and always respond to phone calls, e-mails and letters
  • Consider how you might use social media such as social networking, blogging and Twitter to raise your profile and engage with the community
  • Network – get to know your area, the community groups, agencies etc and be visible
  • Use local media – think how you can best get your messages across, but your party (if you are a member of a political group) may have guidelines on who talks to the media so check first.

Councillors are also expected to attend council and committee meetings, community meetings, and meetings of any other partnerships or external bodies they are appointed to. Councillors who are members of a political party or group will be expected to attend political group meetings, party training and events. All councillors are expected to uphold the highest standards of behaviour. Councillors are bound by a statutory Code of Conduct which outlines what is expected of members. Breaches of the code can be referred to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and sanctions can include suspension from office.

The Code of Conduct is based on the following principles of public life:

  • Selflessness
  • Honesty
  • Integrity and Propriety
  • Duty to Uphold the Law
  • Stewardship
  • Objectivity in Decision-making
  • Equality and Respect
  • Openness
  • Accountability

Beacouncillor top tips“Remember what your election manifesto was, your constituents will certainly remember and will remind you when you least need it generally in public when you have failed to deliver! BUT you cannot solve every problem so don’t beat yourself up if you have done your best and failed.”

 

5. What support will I receive?

Councils do everything they can to support members, from arranging for flexible meeting times to providing assistance from member support officers.

You will also usually be provided with computer equipment, training in using it and access to the council’s intranet. If you are elected you are entitled to have a say on the timings of meetings and help in organising your work.

All councils make arrangements for induction for newly elected members as they do for new members of staff. When you are elected ask for a copy of your council’s member induction pack and timetable of introductory events and training sessions. These sessions will include subjects such as roles within the council, local government finance, and working in your ward.

Many councils offer ‘mentoring’ for newly elected councillors, sometimes this is provided formally through the council or often informally by experienced councillors or through political groups.

Some councils also make arrangements for other support such as a designated officer ‘guide’ who will help you settle in. Ask about the availability of these and other services. Some services are available from the national organisations if they are not available locally.

Councils will also be required from 2012 to offer councillors the opportunity to develop personal development interviews to assess their development and training needs and help them grow into and develop their roles. Ask for advice and support in this area.

Beacouncillor top tips“Yesterday you were a member of the public, today you are a councillor and although you’ll have many phone calls congratulating you there will also be the “By the way could you sort ……” and you can bet your bottom dollar it will be about something you know nothing about. Go and see your democratic services officers, they will help you through the members query system, or ask your mentor if you have one.”

 

6. Will I get paid as a councillor?

Updated January 2012

As a councillor you will be entitled to receive a salary in return for the contribution that you make. All councillors will receive a Basic Salary and those councillors who undertake specific responsibilities such as executive/cabinet members or committee chairs will receive a Senior Salary.

The framework for councillors’ salaries is set by a body called the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales. Currently, most councils pay different levels of allowances, however, the Independent Remuneration Panel was keen to ensure that all councillors in Wales were paid the same Basic Salary (Senior Salaries vary depending on the role and the size of the council). The Panel set salary levels for 2012-13 in its Annual Report December 2011.

From 1st April 2012, all councillors in Wales will receive a Basic Salary of £13,175. Details of Senior Salaries can be found in the Independent Remuneration Panel’s Annual Report 2011 at www.wales.gov.uk/irpwsub/home/?skip=1&lang=en

In addition to Basic Salary (or Senior Salary if you are appointed to a specific senior role) you will also be entitled to claim allowances for travelling and subsistence and a carer’s allowance of up to £403 per month for the care of children or dependents whilst undertaking council business. The Council will publish the details of your salary and any allowances that you receive.

For further information, visit the Independnet Remuneration Panel’s website www.wales.gov.uk/irpwsub/home/?skip=1&lang=en or contact your local authority.

Beacouncillor top tips“If you are employed, make sure that your employer is going to be fully supportive of you if you are elected”

 

7. Who can be a councillor?

The easy answer is almost anyone, as long as you are:

  • British, or a citizen of the Commonwealth or the European Union;
  • 18 years of age or over; and
  • registered to vote in the area or if you have lived, worked or owned property in the area for at least 12 months before an election.

However, Some people can’t be a councillor because they:

  • work for the council where they want to be a councillor for or work for another council in a politically restricted post;
  • are bankrupt or have been surcharged in excess of £2,000;
  • have served a prison sentence (including suspended sentences) of three months or more in the five years before the election; or
  • have been disqualified under any legislation relating to corrupt or illegal practices.

There are other specific criteria for qualification or disqualification. All electoral candidates are advised to visit the electoral commission website for the latest guidance.

There are two basic options – you can stand for election as an independent candidate or as a group/party political candidate.

Either way, you should be clear about your views on local issues and expect to be questioned by the public about what makes you different from other candidates. Make sure you know about the council’s performance and plans for the future because you will be asked about them – and what you would do differently.

The local political parties are already looking for people interested in representing them. Don’t worry if you are not already a member of a party as they will be able to go through all the options with you.

For further information contact:

Plaid Cymru – http://www.plaidcymru.org

Welsh Labour – http://www.welshlabour.org.uk

Welsh Conservatives – http://www.welshconservatives.com

Welsh Liberal Democrats – http://www.welshlibdems.org.uk

The Independent Group on the Local Government Association can provide information for independent councillors and candidates.
http://www.independentgroup.lga.gov.uk

A full list of registered political parties is available at www.electoralcommission.org.uk

Beacouncillor top tips“Remember that you are a councillor for all your constituents, including those who voted for your opponents or didn’t even vote at all!”

 

8. How do I become a councillor?

First steps to becoming a councillor

As the May 2012 election date draws nearer and you have been selected by a party as a candidate, or are standing as an independent candidate, you must make sure you are officially ‘nominated’. This means completing a nomination paper which must be signed by 10 registered electors of the ward where you wish to stand. These papers are available from your local council’s electoral services department. You must also give your consent in writing to your nomination. If you are a candidate for a registered political party, you must also submit a certificate from the party’s nominating officer, authorising you and your use of the party’s description and emblem. If you are standing independently, you can only describe yourself as “independent” or give no description at all.

All the necessary documents must be submitted 19 working days before the day of the election.

 

9. Further Information

Code of Conduct Guidance from the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales http://www.ombudsman-wales.org.uk/en/publications/?pID=254

Electoral Commission (Electoral regulations and procedures guidance is available from the Electoral Commission ) www.electoralcommission.org.uk

The Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales http://www.wales.gov.uk/irpwsub/home/?lang=eng

Local Government Improvement and Development (English language only – some of the guidance is relevant to England only as it does not reflect devolved policies) http://www.idea.gov.uk/

Local Government Leadership Centre http://www.localleadership.gov.uk

Welsh Local Government Association http://www.wlga.gov.uk/english/

Click here to download the full guide in pdf

Beacouncillor top tipsTop tips: A number of ‘top tips’ have been provided throughout by serving councillors based on their experiences as candidates and councillors.

 

The 22 Welsh councils are:

01. Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council

02. Bridgend County Borough Council

03. Caerphilly County Borough Council

04. City and County of Cardiff Council

05. Carmarthenshire County Council

06. Ceredigion County Council

07. City & County of Swansea Council

08. Conwy County Borough Council

09. Denbighshire County Council

10. Flintshire County Council

11. Gwynedd Council

12. Isle of Anglesey County Council

13. Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council

14. Monmouthshire County Council

15. Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council

16. Newport City Council

17. Pembrokeshire County Council

18. Powys County Council

19. Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council

20. Torfaen County Borough Council

21. Vale of Glamorgan Council

22. Wrexham County Borough Council

 

The role of the councillor

Be a Councillor 1Introduction

A Community Leader

Overview and Scrutiny

The Executive

Planning

Licensing

The Standards Committee

 

The Employer

There are a wide range of public perceptions about what councillors do on a day to day basis.

In reality, councillors have to juggle a number of roles and responsibilities and no day is the same. Councillors need to balance the needs and interests of their community, their political party or group (if they are a member) and the council as a whole.

Being a councillor takes personal commitment and to do the role effectively requires a significant amount of time, on top of personal and employment commitments. However, becoming a councillor is a rewarding and privileged form of public service. You will be in a position to make a difference to the quality of other people’s daily lives and prospects.

Councillors are people elected to represent their local community in the running of their local council. As a councillor you would have an important role in the major decisions that affect people’s lives. Local councils are responsible for a whole range of services; waste, recycling and environmental services, schools, social services, planning, housing, benefits, libraries, transport, leisure facilities and many more. As a councillor you will help determine the way these services are provided, funded and prioritised.

Your influence will make a difference to the quality of people’s lives and where they live. You will need to balance the best interests of your community or ward residents, the wider borough or county residents, your political party (if you have one), and the council.

All councillors are advocates for their communities and are ‘case workers’ for their individual constituents when advice or support is requested. Whilst councillors do spend time in council meetings, much of a councillor’s time is spent within their communities speaking and working with members of the public and community groups.

Councillors’ roles in the council vary within the governance structures of the Council. The Council will have a constitution setting out decision-making structures and procedures, terms of reference of internal committees, roles and responsibilities of individual positions of office, standing orders for meetings, codes of conduct and financial regulations.

All councillors are members of the full Council which sets the overall policies and budget. A small number of councillors will form the cabinet or executive board with all other members being active in the overview and scrutiny of the performance of the Council, other organisations and external bodies. There are regulatory committees which deal with the planning and licensing functions. Councillors are also appointed to external local bodies such as school governing bodies and local partnerships, either as representatives of the Council, as trustees or directors in their own right. Some councillors also sit on police authorities, fire and rescue authorities and, where relevant, national park authorities

A common role for all councillors however, irrespective of any formal position or membership of a committee is that of ‘community leadership’. For the individual councillor, being a community leader can mean a number of things. Acting as an advocate for the best interests of one’s ward; lobbying for local concerns; influencing partner organisations to work to a common vision; resolving conflict amongst community organisations; encouraging community organisations to develop solutions in their own communities; balancing competing demands for resources when making decisions in the best interests of the whole authority area.

A Community Leader

For the individual councillor, being a community leader can mean a number of things. Acting as an advocate for the best interests of one’s ward; lobbying for local concerns; influencing partner organisations to work to a common vision; resolving conflict amongst community organisations; encouraging community organisations to develop solutions in their own communities; balancing competing demands for resources when making decisions in the best interests of the whole authority area.

Outside of the council you may be appointed to serve on a partnership between the council and other organisations, as a school governor, or to the committee or board of a local voluntary organisation. These are important positions for the council to fulfil its community leadership role. Some of these positions can be very demanding and some may require you to build up new knowledge or develop specialist skills. Some positions have legal responsibilities and liabilities as you may be accepting the position of director of a company or trustee of a charity, depending on the legal structure of the organisation concerned. If in doubt, ask for full advice before being nominated for a position.

It is well worth checking out the procedures for inviting nominations and making appointments to all of the above positions straight away.

Overview and Scrutiny

All Councils are required to have a least one overview & scrutiny committee, although most have more than one (they are sometimes called panels rather than committees). As only a small proportion of councillors will become part of the cabinet or executive board the majority will be required to play a significant role in overview and scrutiny. Overview & scrutiny has an important role in holding executive councillors to account for their decisions, policies and the performance of council services. They can also play a valuable role in assisting with developing and reviewing policies as well as investigating issues of concern to the local community and the activities of other public sector bodies.

Overview & scrutiny committees do not make decisions but they can make recommendations to the executive or full council. Overview & scrutiny committees can also require executive councillors and senior council officers to attend and answer questions. In reviewing decisions, policies and performance overview & scrutiny committees can gather evidence from a range of sources, including the public, service users, independent experts or representatives of other public bodies, to inform their findings. Sometimes reviews or investigations conducted by overview & scrutiny committees can last for several months.

Overview and scrutiny committees also have specific additional powers in relation to the scrutiny of crime and disorder. Welsh Government has also introduced legislation that proposes a number changes to strengthen the role to include the scrutiny of some local services provided by organisations outside the council.

The Executive

The Cabinet or Executive Board is responsible for making most of the council’s policy decisions. Each Cabinet member has a specific portfolio area such as Social services, the environment and housing or Human Resources. Their role is to drive forward their part of the executive Work Programme. It is unusual for newly elected members to have an executive role however it is important to be aware of the executive work programme and make the necessary links with portfolio holders about issues affecting their portfolio in your ward.

Planning

Elected members have a critical role in the planning process. They must steer the development of the Local Development Plan which sets the framework for local decision making and its review and monitoring. Those who also sit on the relevant planning committees must determine planning applications within the context of that local and national policy. As a member of a planning committee you would be involved in granting planning permission taking into account the law on development and the requirements of the Local Development Plan.

Licensing

Through their licensing functions, local authorities seek the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. As a member of a licensing committee you could be involved in decisions about licensed premises such as pubs and casinos or about taxis, events or street traders.

The Standards Committee

Every council must have a Standards Committee. The Committee is responsible for adopting a local code of conduct for monitoring conduct, and for adjudicating on cases of misconduct. All councillors are required to sign the code of conduct to ensure they uphold the highest standards. The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales will hear written complaints about alleged cases of misconduct and can take several courses of action including referral of cases to the Adjudication Panel for Wales.

The Employer

Collectively the Council is the legal employer of the workforce and will have legal responsibilities for their employees. Whilst strategic workforce policy issues will be the responsibility of the Executive, Overview and Scrutiny Committees can play a very useful role in reviewing the effectiveness of workforce strategies, policies and practice. Whilst day–to-day management and operational issues will be delegated to officers, all Elected Members will have a general duty of care towards employees.

 

Expectations of Councillors

Be a Councillor 2Introduction

Early Days

Representing your ward (or electoral division) and the council

Community Leadership and Partnership Working

Characteristics of effective community leadership

Political Accountability

Standards of Behaviour

 

The expectations placed on a councillor are considerable. It is a time consuming as well as responsible job but with significant rewards. As an elected member you will need to balance your time between working in your community and working in the council and accommodate your work as a councillor alongside the ‘day job’ if you are working.

Before you consider becoming a councillor you may want to discuss it with your family and friends to ensure that they understand that you will need their support and understanding. You may be spending a lot of your spare time on council business.

It is estimated that on average, councillors spend the equivalent of three days a week on council business. Many employers recognise the value of the work of councillors and the skills that their employees will gain in the role and therefore provide time off or flexibility for you to undertake your council duties.

When you are first elected as a councillor, it has been described as ‘like the first day at a new school, you may not know who anyone is, where you need to go or what you are supposed to do’. There is plenty of help and advice at hand from officers, other experienced elected members, your political party or group and from national organisations.

Once elected, you will become the voice for everyone in your community or electoral division often referred to as a ‘ward’ by many councillors; individuals, groups, businesses and even those who did not vote for you. The aspects of a councillor’s role that residents consider most important are ward-related activities such as holding regular surgeries and helping local people with complaints or problems.

You need to speak to the community and be clear about the needs and feelings of constituents. You will not be able to help everyone in the way they would want but you need to be honest and open about your decision making and make sure residents’ views are heard – you are their voice in the council.

You will also need to be able to convey the policies and standpoint of the council to the community, making sure that they understand why, for example, decisions have been taken. Being a councillor is a privileged and rewarding role but it requires commitment, patience and resilience and can be demanding and stressful.

Early Days

When you are first elected it will be as described by one member ‘like the first day at a new school, you may not know who anyone is, where you need to go or what you are supposed to do’. There is plenty of help and advice at hand from officers, other experienced elected members, your political party or group and from national organisations.

First priorities for newly elected members will include:

  • signing your declaration of acceptance of office
  • making sure you are briefed on and understand the Code of Conduct before signing it
  • declaring any interests and affiliations that you may have
  • being briefed on how the Constitution of the Council works
  • understanding the allowances and expenses regulations and procedures
  • understanding who’s who within the council and being introduced
  • making sure that you are provided with a role description and have opportunities to discuss its contents. Model role descriptions for Members are available from the WLGA http://www.wlga.gov.uk/english/member-role-descriptions/
    http://www.wlga.gov.uk/cymraeg/member-role-descriptions/
  • taking part in the authority’s new member induction programme and making sure that officers know what further training you require
  • having your computer and equipment supplied and installed (where available)
  • organising your ward work and your ‘office’ system at home
  • checking out what support services, such as child care, are available
  • being assigned a mentor to “show you the ropes” if you want one
  • being appointed to your position(s) within the council

Representing your ward (or electoral division) and the council

Once elected, you will become the voice for everyone in your electoral division (still called wards by many members); individuals, groups, businesses and even those who did not vote for you. The aspects of a councillor’s role that residents consider most important are ward-related activities such as holding regular surgeries and helping local people with complaints or problems. You need to speak to the community and be clear about the needs and feelings of constituents. You will not be able to help everyone in the way they would want but you need to be honest and open about your decision making and make sure residents’ views are heard – you are their voice in the council. You will also need to be able to convey the policies and standpoint of the council to the community, making sure that they understand why, for example decisions have been taken. Being a councillor is a privileged and rewarding role but it requires commitment, patience and resilience and can be demanding and stressful.

In order to help you manage your role as a councillor, you should:

  • Hold surgeries – regularly and often. Make sure they are promoted in advance and are held in accessible locations at convenient times
  • Send newsletters, and always respond to phone calls, e-mails and letters
  • Consider how you might use social media such as social networking, blogging and Twitter to raise your profile and engage with the community
  • Network – get to know your area, the community groups, agencies etc and be visible
  • Use local media – think how you can best get your messages across, but your party (if you are a member of a political group) may have guidelines on who talks to the media so check first

Community Leadership and Partnership Working

Every council has a legal responsibility to develop a vision for the locality, working in partnership to deliver that vision and guaranteeing quality services for all.

It is about more than just the services the council provides – it is about all the locally delivered public services in your patch and how they can be delivered most effectively to meet the needs and expectations of the public. You will need to form close links with other key stakeholders in the community such as the police, local health boards, the voluntary and business sectors to deliver better outcomes for all the community. Be clear about what is trying to be achieved, and the role that partners can play in achieving those aims.

Characteristics of effective community leadership

  • listening to and involving local communities
  • building vision and direction
  • working effectively in partnerships
  • making things happen
  • empowering local communities
  • using community resources effectively

Political Accountability

The individual and collective decisions councillors make will be of interest to electors. You will be held accountable for the promises you make in your manifesto and you should be prepared to answer for the decisions of your political group.

If you are an ‘opposition’ councillor, part of your role will involve checking and questioning the decisions of the controlling group and putting forward alternatives to the council’s policies. There will probably already be established positions in place – different views that your group (if you are a member of one) has about issues facing the council.

Standards of Behaviour

Your council will have its own code of conduct based on a model Code and supported by Guidance from the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales. The Code is based on seven principles of public life, first set out in the Committee on Standards in Public Life (the Nolan Committee) and most recently defined in Wales in a Statutory Instrument as:

1. Selflessness

Members must act solely in the public interest. They must never use their position as members to improperly confer advantage on themselves or to improperly confer advantage or disadvantage on others.

2. Honesty

Members must declare any private interests relevant to their public duties and take steps to resolve any conflict in a way that protects the public interest.

3. Integrity and Propriety

Members must not put themselves in a position where their integrity is called into question by any financial or other obligation to individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their duties. Members must on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour.

4. Duty to Uphold the Law

Members must act to uphold the law and act on all occasions in accordance with the trust that the public has placed in them.

5. Stewardship

In discharging their duties and responsibilities members must ensure that their authority’s resources are used both lawfully and prudently.

6. Objectivity in Decision-making

In carrying out their responsibilities including making appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, members must make decisions on merit. Whilst members must have regard to the professional advice of officers and may properly take account of the views of others, including their political groups, it is their responsibility to decide what view to take and, if appropriate, how to vote on any issue.

7. Equality and Respect

Members must carry out their duties and responsibilities with due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity for all people, regardless of their gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, age or religion, and show respect and consideration for others.

8. Openness

Members must be as open as possible about all their actions and those of their authority. They must seek to ensure that disclosure of information is restricted only in accordance with the law.

9. Accountability

Members are accountable to the electorate and the public generally for their actions and for the way they carry out their responsibilities as a member. They must be prepared to submit themselves to such scrutiny as is appropriate to their responsibilities.

10. Leadership

Members must promote and support these principles by leadership and example so as to promote public confidence in their role and in the authority. They must respect the impartiality and integrity of the authority’s statutory officers and its other employees.

Code of Conduct Guidance from the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales
http://www.ombudsman-wales.org.uk/en/publications/?pID=254

As a councillor you will need to formally sign and adhere to the “rules” set out in your Code of Conduct. The Code applies to you whenever you are acting or appearing to act in your official capacity and also at any time, if you conduct yourself in a manner which could be seen as bringing your office or authority into disrepute, if you seek to gain advantage for yourself because of your position or if you misuse your authority’s resources.

When making decisions relating to the business of your authority you will have a duty to act fairly and objectively without making up your mind before you have heard all the relevant information. Whenever you carry out your duties you will need to decide if you have a personal interest in the matter or if you think your judgement of the issue might be prejudiced. If you believe either of these to be the case, you will need to formally declare it.

National Guidance on interpreting the Code of Conduct is available from the Public Service Ombudsman and when you are elected, your monitoring officer.

 

How do Councils work

Be a Councillor 3Community Leadership

Challenging Times

Financial Stewardship

The Council as an Employer

Promoting Equalities

Sustainable Development

Health Improvement

Improving Council Performance

External Regulation

The electorate trusts local councillors with responsibilities for using public resources appropriately and fairly, ensuring that communities are properly represented and providing day to day services on which they can depend. Councillors are not only elected to office to represent their ward (wards are now referred to as electoral divisions) and their constituents, they also have legal obligations to oversee the management of the corporate body of the council and to assure the highest standards of governance, stewardship and organisational performance in the public interest.

Effective local government relies on public confidence in their elected councillors and officials. High standards of conduct and leadership are at the heart of good governance. Elected members and officers should demonstrate leadership by behaving in ways that exemplify the highest standards of conduct. Good governance is based on the simple principles of openness, objectivity, integrity, selflessness, honesty, accountability and leadership. Governance can only be effective where the local authority provides vision for its community and leads by example in its decision-making and other processes and actions.

Community Leadership

Councils are central to the lives and futures of the communities they serve and have a unique power of community leadership.

Community leadership means defining a vision for the community and working in partnership with a range of public, voluntary, community and private sector partners to fulfil that vision. In practice this is achieved through partnerships, mutually agreed strategies, joint working and the pooling of resources.

Councils have a statutory power to promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of their areas which is usually expressed through the Community Strategy. The council has a duty to produce a Community Strategy which should bring together all partners and provide the long-term vision and direction for the whole of a local area. Underneath this overarching plan, the council also prepares a number of other key strategies, including a Local Development Plan, Children and Young Peoples’ Strategy and a Heath and Well-being Strategy.

Challenging Times

The financial challenges currently facing the public sector as a result of the economic downturn have been described as the most serious since the period after the Second World War. Local authorities are facing reduced budgets which inevitably has a serious impact on both services and the potentially the workforce. This means that local government is changing the way it does business.

A national Efficiency and Innovation Board, made up of key stakeholders and partners, and chaired by the Minister for Business and Budget, is leading a programme of prioirty interventions focused on taking a public service wide approach to deliver significant benefits.

The aim of the Efficiency and Innovation Programme is to make the delivery of local services more efficient and to encourage the people working for councils to rethink how they deliver services to citizens.

Key to this will be will be building much stronger collaboration across organisations and administrative boundaries and with citizens themselves.

The Programme will initially focus on seven areas of work

  • Collaborative Procurement and Commissioning
  • Public Service Information Communication Technology
  • National Asset Management
  • Transforming the Business
  • New Models of Service Delivery
  • Workforce Development
  • Leadership

As councillors you will be expected to bear in mind the need to change the way local government does business and do your part to secure improvement and efficiency and encourage innovation at every opportunity.

Financial Stewardship

In 2010-11 local government is responsible for £8.6 billion of public spending in Wales. This compares with expenditure of £6.1bn on the NHS and the total public expenditure in Wales of £18bn1.

The majority of the £7.5bn local government revenue expenditure is funded by the revenue support grant (RSG) from the Welsh Government which is supplemented by council tax, Business Rates (National Non-Domestic Rates), specific grants and earned income, such as car parking charges, leisure centre fees, etc. The biggest spending services are education, social services and housing. The Welsh Government’s revenue support grant is not ring fenced or hypothecated. This means that the grant is flexible and councils have significant scope to decide how it is to be used to meet local needs and priorities, and on what services it should be invested in.

Capital expenditure makes up the remaining £1.1bn of local government spend and includes spend on assets such as buildings and vehicles, a Council uses to deliver its services. Again this is largely funded through Welsg Government grants and supplemented by prudential borrowing and capital receipts. The largest spending areas are disabled facility or housing renovation grants, housing and education.

Councils develop a medium term financial plan, which reflects their other corporate strategic plans and which link with their Risk Management and Asset Management Plans. Each year then the annual budget will be developed from the medium term financial plan. As well as setting out the Council’s spending plans for the following year, the budget process result in the setting of the council tax increase. The annual budget and level of council tax is set by the whole council on the advice and recommendation of the cabinet or executive board.

Despite being one of the most contentious taxes, council tax represents only 4.2% of national taxation in the UK, and funds on average only 20% of local council expenditure in Wales. The council tax pays for police officers and fire-fighters, as well as the broad range of council services. If a council needs to increase its expenditure, it can only do this by raising more money through the council tax which results in a disproportionate increase, as a 1% budget increase would require a 5% Council Tax increase. For example, a Council’s budget is £100m and it raises £20m of this via Council Tax. The Council needs to raise an extra £1m, which has to come from the Council Tax. Whilst only 1% of the Council’s budget, £1m represents 5% of the £20m Council Tax total, therefore bills would go up by 5%.

The council is advised and supported in managing its finances by a senior officer, known as the Section 151 officer, who is statutorily charged with responsibility for ensuring financial probity. This officer is often the Treasurer or Director of Finance of the Council. The management of financial transactions is governed by the financial regulations of the council. There are also statutory requirements on the Council to adopt, the Accounting Code of Practice Asset Management Strategies and the Prudential Code (relating to Capital accounting) where capital investment plans must be shown to be prudent and affordable.

The Council as an Employer

Councils are one of the largest local employers in Wales with over 150,000 people working in local government in Wales, representing 1 in 8 of the working population. Many of the workforce will live within the Council’s boundaries.

Councils have complex legal responsibilities as well as a general duty of care for their well being and safety. Councils are expected to develop strategies and good practice for the effective recruitment, retention, training and development and health and well being of their workforce, and for effective communication and engagement including maintaining open and constructive relations with their trade unions representatives.

Councils generally have a well-deserved reputation as good employers. There is a weight of evidence to show that a workforce that is well-managed, and fairly rewarded (including the less tangible elements of reward) will be more motivated and engaged and perform more effectively. However, the current financial climate presents councils with a real challenge in this regard as employee costs make up over 50% of the local authority budget.

With a rightful public expectation of modern, first class public services in Wales and the current financial climate for local government, it is important that those responsible for delivering those services are properly managed and valued.

Promoting Equalities

There are substantial economic and social costs of inequality. According to research, at the current rate of change the gender pay gap will be closed in 2085, the ethnic minority employment gap in 2105 and the disability employment gap will probably never be closed. Gender, age, ethnicity, disability, religion and belief, and sexual orientation can all be triggers of discrimination and disadvantage.

Councils have legal and moral duties to promote equality of opportunity and should be sensitive to the diverse needs for local services within their communities. The council has responsibilities to promote equalities as a provider of services, as a democratic body which is representative of all interests in the community, as a major employer and as a community leader.

The WLGA Equalities Improvement Framework is an aid that is used to mainstream equality into business planning and risk management, performance assessment and planning change.

Sustainable Development

Sustainability means not making decisions today that limit the ability of future generations to live healthy lives, planning and delivering for the longer term, rather than for short-term gain. Currently in Wales we are using resources as if there were 2.7 planets rather than just one and as such we are a major contributor to climate change.

In Wales there is a unique legal duty to promote sustainable development across all statutory bodies including councils. There are environmental limits which must underpin everything that councils and citizens do. A sustainable local government approach therefore should plan for prosperity not wealth, and offer sufficient local services and resources, whilst also understanding the need to live within environmental limits

Sustainable development can be used as a route to better council decision making and delivering improved council services. It is about:

  • ensuring well-being and a better quality of life, as well as promoting social justice and equality.
  • thinking about the impacts of today’s actions on future generations.
  • protecting and enhancing the natural and built environment by learning to live within environmental limits.

Local authorities have a major role to play in achieving a sustainable economy and environment, as well as developing resilient local communities. The ability of local communities to withstand future social, economic and environmental changes can be strengthened through thinking about sustainable development in the following areas of Council activity:

  • Strategic Planning and partnership working
  • Financial and resource management.
  • Service provision
  • Risk management

By using their combined resources to achieve sustainable development, local authorities and their partners can simultaneously support local economies, strengthen local communities and benefit the environment both locally and globally.

Health Improvement

There’s more to health than waiting times and prescriptions. The factors that determine health are broad and include environmental factors, the economy, the built environment and lifestyles – local councils and their partners have an impact in mitigating or improving all of those factors.

Every service provided by local authorities impacts on the health and wellbeing of communities and individuals; local authorities are increasingly seen as health improvement agencies in their own right.

The primary framework for all activity to secure health improvement locally within communities is the local Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Strategy. These statutory strategies provide a framework within which the local authority and Local Health Board set out how together they will drive forward improvements in the health and well-being of their local populations.

Improving Council Performance

All councils seek to achieve the highest possible standards of service delivery to meet the needs and aspirations of local communities. Councils are therefore continually striving to improve their services.

The Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 set out the ‘Wales Programme for Improvement’ for councils, which strengthens the links between councils’ improvement planning and their longer-term community strategies.

The Welsh Government’s statutory guidance defines improvement in terms of “anything which enhances sustainable quality of life for local citizens and communities”. While this definition may seem broad and loose, the Measure imposes some more specific requirements. It requires authorities annually to set ‘improvement objectives’ that reflect and enhance the Council’s contribution to the delivery of local strategic priorities. It then requires authorities to establish arrangements to secure the delivery of these objectives and report publicly on both their future intentions and their actual performance.

The Wales Audit Office and other regulatory bodies hold the council to account, assessing both the likelihood of the Council complying with the Measure and its performance in relation to the objectives that it has set for itself.

External Regulation

Councils regulate their own affairs through their own governance arrangements such as internal reporting, resource management and performance management. Some of these responsibilities are discharged by nominated officers, such as the Section 151 Officer (financial monitoring), Monitoring Officer (legal compliance) and the Chief Internal Auditor.

External bodies appointed by the Welsh Government also regulate the compliance and performance of councils. The Wales Audit Office assesses corporate governance, inspects services, conducts national studies and provides external audit services to councils alongside appointed private providers. Other regulators include the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) (care, early years and social services); Estyn (education) and the Benefits Inspectorate (benefits services).

 

Governance in Wales

Be a Councillor 4

An Overview

Working with the Welsh Government

Working with the UK Government

Working with the European Union

Working with Town and Community Councils

An Overview

In Wales, there are five ‘tiers’ of representative democracy. The electorate is served by a Member of Parliament (MP), a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Members of the National Assembly for Wales (AMs) and their local councillor(s) elected to the unitary council (also known as a local authority). In most rural areas and in some urban areas the electorate is also served by a town and community councillor. There are 22 local authorities in Wales and 735 community and town councils. There are also 3 national park authorities, 4 police authorities and 3 fire and rescue authorities in Wales.

There are 1,264 councillors in Wales, around 8000 community councillors, 4 members of the European Parliament, 40 Members of Parliament and 60 Members of the National Assembly for Wales.

There are also a range of Assembly Government Sponsored Bodies (AGSBs) in Wales – non-elected public bodies charged with responsibilities for public services. Lay persons are appointed by the Assembly Government to serve on the management boards of these bodies in non-executive capacities. Councillors representing the views and interests of the unitary councils also sit on these boards. These include the Arts Council for Wales and the Environment Agency.

Seven Health Boards in Wales are responsible within their geographical area for planning, funding and delivering primary health care services – GPs, pharmacies, dentists and optometrists, hospital services and community services. An elected member from an authority within the Local Health Board area sits on each of the Boards.

Each of the 22 local authority areas in Wales has a Local Service Board. These boards are responsible for ensuring that all the public services in their area work together across organisational boundaries to improve outcomes for citizens, tackling service challenges or ‘systems blockages’ between service providers.

Councils also have an important role in scrutinising the wider public service allowing them to have a say over all public services delivered within their communities.

Under the Welsh Government’s Communities First Programme, local partnerships in over 140 of the most deprived communities in Wales bring together representatives of all interests to manage funding programmes to tackle deprivation and build community capacity.

Working with the Welsh Government

The terms “Welsh Government” and “National Assembly for Wales” mean different things. The Welsh Government consists only of the governing Ministers in Wales; the National Assembly for Wales consists of all 60 elected Assembly Members (AMs). The National Assembly is the Welsh equivalent to the UK parliament in Westminster, which houses every MP from across the UK. The Senedd in Cardiff Bay is the home of the debating chamber for the National Assembly for Wales.

The Welsh Government has a wide-range of powers which impact on local government and the services it delivers. It is responsible for a range of local government policy areas, such as social services, education, the environment, planning, transport, economic development. Critically, it is responsible for distributing Wales’ £15.8billion budget, of which nearly £8.6 billion (2010/11) is spent on local government services.

The Welsh Government sets the national agenda for Wales, and whilst setting strategies and key targets, it gives significant flexibility to local government to work within these national parameters. Most of the funding passed from the Welsh Government to local councils is not ring fenced, giving Councils the flexibility to spend the money on local needs and priorities.

Councils have direct links with the Welsh Government, via elected members and officers, however, much of the national representation and negotiation over policy development and funding is undertaken through the WLGA. This cross-party organisation, representing all councils, elects senior councillors from across Wales as local government spokespersons to meet regularly with Ministers, other AMs, and civil servants, to ensure local government’s concerns and views inform national decision-making. There is also a statutory Partnership Council between the Welsh Government and local government which promotes joint working, co-operation and informed policy development.

Working with the UK Government

Although the Welsh Government and National Assembly for Wales has significant financial, legislative and policy powers over much of what Welsh local government does, it is important that councils continue work closely with Ministers, MPs and civil servants in London.

There are some key areas affecting local government that are not devolved, such as Home Office functions around policing and community safety and the overall system of local taxation (i.e. council tax).

Councils will have direct links with the UK Government, via councillors and officers working with local MPs and relevant Ministers. Much of the national representation is conducted via the WLGA, whose senior spokespersons hold regular meetings with the Secretary of State for Wales and other Wales Office Ministers, as well as Ministers from other non-devolved Departments.

Working with the European Union

The European Union (EU) has a growing influence over all aspects of local government activity. Councils also have a major role in ensuring that the EU delivers practical benefits for Welsh citizens. There are a number of reasons why Europe is important to local government and why local government is important to Europe:

  • Councils can contribute to the quality of EU initiatives by identifying ways to make them more workable on the ground.
  • For many councils EU funding, whether from the Structural Funds or other programmes, is a very important resource.
  • As much as 70% of UK law impacting on councils has its origins in EU legislation.
  • Councils have much to gain from exchanging good practice with their counterparts in other European countries.

Working with Town and Community Councils

There are 735 town and community councils in Wales with around 8000 councillors. They are not present in every part of Wales as there is a procedure for forming new councils; they can be established or disbanded at the wishes of the community. They can set a ‘precept’ or ‘rate’ which is collected by the council along with the Council Tax. The level of services these councils deliver varies across Wales. Some are content with largely acting in a representative role but many also deliver a range of services such as maintenance of community halls, bus shelters, public spaces and play grounds on behalf of the community.

One Voice Wales is the organisation which represents and provides support services to community and town councils in Wales. Many councillors in parts of Wales are also town or community councillors for their area. It is important that councillors and town and community councillors work together in representing their communities. Unitary councils and town and community councils are encouraged to establish closer working relationships through voluntary agreements called charters.

 

Local Government Services

Whilst Welsh local government plays a pivotal role in shaping and supporting communities and providing community leadership and democratic representation, councils also provide a range of vital front-line services.

The LGA estimates that councils provide over 700 separate services to the public, including services that are often unseen or are taken for granted.

Councils have statutory responsibilities for many things that affect people’s lives, including, planning and transport, social services and promoting equality and sustainable development.

Local government also provides a range of vital non-statutory services, such as leisure and culture and crucially the regeneration of local areas. In addressing these responsibilities, authorities work closely with communities and other stakeholders.

The public service delivery ‘architecture’ is evolving. Whilst councils are responsible for the provision of many services, they are not always delivered by the council and may be delivered by third sector or private sector partners or jointly with other authorities or agencies. The scale of services is also changing, with an increasing emphasis and expectation from the Welsh Government that certain services, such as education, waste and social services, should be delivered jointly or across regions.

The following list provides background to some of councils key services. The pages will be updated throughout 2011-12, to ensure that they are up-to-date and include the latest key policies and priorities emerging following the National Assembly elections in May 2011.

Local Government Services

Community Safety
Education and Lifelong Learning
Environment and the Countryside
Housing
Leisure and Culture
Planning
Regeneration
Regulatory Services
Social Services
Transport and Highways
Waste Management

Guide for Businesses: Supporting local communities; supporting local democracy

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