Secretary of State calls on National Assembly to do more to empower Welsh communities
Speaking at the annual Society of Local Council Clerks conference in Llandudno, Mr Jones will underline the UK Government’s strong commitment to giving people and communities greater power.
He will highlight the differences in approach to localism in England and Wales, and look at what more could be done to push down power to the local level in Wales.
But Mr Jones wants community councils to be empowered to do more, and will call on the National Assembly to examine the initiatives being implemented successfully in England, and consider adopting these in Wales.
He believes “Wales’ community councils and counterparts in County Councils are best placed to make decisions for our communities,” and will urge the Assembly to use its powers “to give local people a voice in issues that matter to them.”
Whilst Mr Jones and UK Government would like to see more power pushed down at a local level, they have also urged councils to open up the processes of democracy to local citizens.
In June a row erupted between Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles and the Welsh Government, who felt he was meddling in Welsh council affairs..
He announced he was drawing up guidelines stating councils in England should allow the public filming of meetings, Mr Pickles challenged Wales to do the same, going part way to giving local people “a voice on issues that matter”
The guidelines include allowing the use of social media in council meetings in England as a matter of course, and wants the Welsh Government to pass similar guidelines.
At the time he said
“I challenge the Welsh Government to give taxpayers in Wales the same rights as those in England now have, and stop the scandal of free speech being suppressed in Wales’ town halls.”
The Welsh Government reacted angrily to the suggestion a source told the Daily Post:
“This is utter nonsense and completely untrue.“What happens in Wales is of no concern to Eric Pickles whatsoever, he is developing an obsession with Wales that raises many questions – not least because he is acting like an outrider for the Secretary of State for Wales”
“The fact is, there is no way any UK Government Minister would talk about Scotland in such patronising terms.”
In August the row erupted again with Mr Pickles claiming his suggestion that the Welsh government should adopt the same approach had been “rebuffed”
He also said;
“A small number of councils are blocking filming because they want to suppress independent reporting, just as some councils are clinging to their town hall Pravdas. An independent local press and robust public scrutiny is essential for a healthy local democracy: without the sunlight of transparency, the flowering of localism will wither. Heavy-handed councils who call the police to suppress freedom of speech are abusing state powers”
In response a Welsh Government source said:
“Once again, Eric Pickles is abusing taxpayers’ money to fund his unhealthy obsession with matters in Wales .
“He is misquoting and using misinformation to run cheap political attacks against the Welsh Labour government. He’s now become a tedious repeat offender.
“The Welsh government has better things to do with its time and resources than attack Eric Pickles’ abysmal performance in England. ‘Obsessive Eric’ clearly has too much time on his hands.”
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