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ASSEMBLY PLANS GET STRONG SUPPORT FROM THE WELSH

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Local authorities in Wales are launching a campaign backing a Welsh assembly in the wake of a meeting with Welsh se...
Local authorities in Wales are launching a campaign backing a Welsh assembly in the wake of a meeting with Welsh secretary Ron Davies.

The Welsh Local Government Association was due to meet Mr Davies yesterday to discuss its broad support for the government's white paper proposals to set up a Welsh assembly.

Also on the agenda for the first in a planned series of regular meetings between local government and the secretary of state were details on how the best value regime could be established in Wales.

Paul Griffiths, head of corporate affairs at the WLGA, said the association would afterwards launch a campaign encouraging a yes vote in the referendum on 18 September.

A WLGA leaflet, The Welsh Local Government Association Says YES to a Welsh Assembly, will be sent to councils across Wales.

Mr Griffiths dismissed suggestions that the association, which represents 20 of the 22 local authorities in Wales, would be contravening statutory prohibitions on local authority campaigns of a party political nature.

He said it was questionable whether the WLGA was bound by the law in the same way as individual councils.

He pointed out that the wording of the relevant legislation referred to activities 'designed to affect public support for a political party'. The Welsh campaign in favour of the assembly was a multi-party one, he argued.

'This is the biggest constitutional question that could be put to the people of Wales,' Mr Griffiths said. 'Local government as a representative of the people of Wales must surely have the right to a voice'.

Harry Jones, leader of both Newport CBC and the WLGA, said Wales needed an effective working partnership between an elected assembly and local government.

'Wales is performing poorly in health, in housing, in education and in the economy - this is the result of over-centralised government,' he said. 'We need an assembly committed to working with people in Wales and their local authorities to make Wales better.'

The WLGA campaign will appeal to councils under the slogan 'Confident Wales'.

'A confident Wales will say yes to an assembly, yes to democracy and yes to greater control of our own affairs,' the leaflet says.

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