What assessment has the Minister made of the effectiveness of town and community councils in Wales?
Community and town councils are sovereign bodies and independently accountable to their electorate for their actions.
Following concerns raised within the Audit Wales Report on financial management and governance of community and town councils in 2020, the Welsh Government has taken action to provide support to the sector to improve its financial management and governance. The Welsh Government has also worked with sector partners to develop the Finance and Governance Toolkit.
The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 placed new duties on community councils to improve transparency and accountability including the publication of annual reports, member training plans and enabling public participation at meetings. To support implementation training bursaries are provided to councillors and clerks to upskill the sector.
The Local Government Chief Digital Officer reported on the digital effectiveness of community councils in March of this year. The report made several recommendations for action. I immediately established a working group to invest up to £150,000 to take actions to improve the digital maturity of community councils.
The elections in May 2022 highlighted concerns relating to the democratic health of the sector, with large numbers of seats being uncontested or vacant and a number of councils inquorate after the elections. I have, therefore, established the Democratic Health Task and Finish group to explore these issues and propose options for action. They will report in 2024.