By Kerry Lorimer, finance editor
Welsh councils are to see a dramatic reduction in the number of plans they are required to submit, in a move which puts the Welsh Assembly well ahead of Whitehall on reducing bureaucracy.
The move follows an Audit Commission in Wales report which painted a mixed picture of improvement across the country, with social services highlighted as a particular weakness (LGC, 8 April).
The assembly's approach differs radically from that of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which has made plan reduction dependent on demonstrable improvements in performance.
Welsh local government minister Sue Essex said that while the existing system provided 'limited evidence' of councils' intentions, it created a culture of compliance which said nothing about delivery.
'We will therefore consult on removing all the current requirements, apart from a handful of high-level and long-term strategies,' she said.
The need to change or amend legislation means around half the earmarked plans will not be removed until 2008 at the earliest.
But Chris Freegard, managing director of Newport City Council, said the assembly's move was 'very, very significant'.
'Many of the plans prepared by councils have little value in the context of the current world,' he said. But he warned the plans that are part of the community strategy must be kept in check. 'We must avoid the tendency for these to develop into encyclopaedias,' he said.
In the thrall of bureaucracy
Welsh plans today - breakdown by area
care & wellbeing
Local development 10
Welsh plans by 2009
Community strategy, plus health, social care & wellbeing strategy; children & young people's strategy; and local development plan