Sue Essex, minister for finance and local government, said: 'Town and community councils are the tier of local government which is closest to local people and they have strong ties to locality and community. They provide a link between the local community and the county councils. And they play an important role in ensuring that the local voice is heard and in representing the local community.
One of the most significant developments for the first tier of local government to come out of the Welsh Assembly is the Scoping Study. Michael Wood and Bill Edwards, from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, are the lead academic consultants on the study.
They said: 'All principal councils required to agree charters with community & town councils. These charters should cover: exchange of information; liaison; consultation; planning; and community strategies.' Further they said there should be a local democracy fund set up by the National Assembly of Wales to assist first tier councils in service and function delivery.
NALC chairman David Street focussed on the development of 'One Voice Wales', which will see the union of different representative associations for community and town councils into one association. He said it was remarkable what has been achieved in a limited timeframe.
The National Association of Local Councils is the national representative body for 9,500 community, parish and town councils throughout England and Wales. In all, there are over 80,000 community, parish and town councillors throughout England and Wales. These councillors, who serve electorates ranging from small rural communities to major cities, are all independently elected. The councils have powers to raise their own funds through council tax. Community, parish and town councils provide employment for over 25,000 staff while their annual expenditure exceeds £200m. Together, they can be identified as the nation's single most influential grouping of grassroots opinion-formers. Over 15 million people live in communities served by 9,500 community, parish and town councils nationally - this represents up to 30% of the population. Over 150 new community, parish and town councils have been created since 1997.