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CONFERENCE REPORT

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Jon Hanlon reports from the WLGA conference in Swansea ...
Jon Hanlon reports from the WLGA conference in Swansea

Local government leaders have criticised the Welsh Assembly for dabbling in community issues and seeking to take powers from councils rather than Whitehall.

The onslaught, backed by Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, came at the Welsh Local Government Association annual conference.

Cardiff CC lord mayor Russell Goodway (Lab) said people are dissatisfied with the Assembly because there are too many elected representatives, and Assembly members are becoming increasingly involved in matters more suited to councils.

He said: 'We need to develop a

distinct Welsh constitution for a more structured, rational approach to government in Wales.'

Mr Wyn Jones said the Assembly is a weak institution trying to take power from local government rather than from Westminster.

WLGA leader Sir Harry Jones (Lab) complained the Assembly had set up a quango to look at electoral reform despite earlier promises there would be a 'bonfire of the quangos'.

He said: 'We have our differences with the Assembly. We are seeking a full-scale review of regional bodies and quangos that we feel the Assembly has not yet tackled.'

Local government minister Edwina Hart said: 'Even though two organisations walk down the same road they might diverge sometimes.'

She said there would be no return to ring-fencing as long as she is local government minister. But opposition leaders insist increasing specific grants mean councils are faced with the same restrictions.

Hart calls for wider access

Welsh local government minister Edwina Hart is urging councils to think of ways to bring more women, ethnic minorities and young people into local government.

She asked councils

to give evidence to a commission on electoral reform which is looking at ways to widen access to local government.

Ms Hart said figures show only two out of 10 elected members are women, a figure which has actually fallen in the past two local government elections.

She added: 'There

are far too many councillors representing the older generation. We need much more representative councils.'

It is hoped recommended increases in allowances will allow a wider range of people to become councillors.

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