The Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth undertook the survey, A Research Study into the Role, Functions and Future Potential of Community and Town Councils, on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government. It will form the basis for developing the assembly government's policy on community and town councils.
'Community and town councils provide a range of services and local amenities and also represent the views of local people. I am pleased to see from this report that the vast majority of local councils actively contribute to their areas' well being. However, the report also outlines the constraints which they face and sets out proposals for enhancing their role, should they wish to take on additional responsibilities.'
The report concludes that community and town councils have the potential to make significant contributions to the areas they serve by being responsive to local needs, representing local interests to external bodies, facilitating community activities and events and enhancing the services provided by other bodies. Their benefits outweigh their associated costs.
A total of 76 recommendations are made. These include the encouragement of community councils in areas where they do not currently exist, the repeal of powers to disband local councils, joint working arrangements between local councils, and the provision of a wider range of services for local councils through a 'Charter' agreement with their county councils.
Other recommendations include the co-option of up to two no n-voting representatives aged between 16 and 25, an annual 'basic allowance' to members in respect of the time spent on council duties outside of meetings; and the reimbursement of childcare and dependants' care costs incurred by members whilst on council business.
The report will be sent to local and community councils, county and borough councils, local councils' associations, the Welsh Local Government Association and other interested organisations. The Welsh Assembly Government will also hold a series of four consultation meetings at locations throughout Wales early in the New Year. Comments should be submitted by 27 February 2004 to Graham Pogson, Local Government Modernisation Division, Welsh Assembly Government, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NQ, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The report and a summary report can be found on the National Assembly for Wales'
Background research papers can be found on the study's website.
The research was overseen by a steering group chaired by Eric Sunderland and including representatives from community and town councils, the Welsh Local Government Association, District Audit (Wales), Wales Council for Voluntary Action, and other organisations associated with local government.
The research was based on questionnaire surveys of all community and town councils and county/county borough councils. In depth case studies were undertaken of 17 local councils in different areas of Wales. In addition, four public seminars were held which were attended by a total of over 300 people.
The report has already been discussed by the joint National Assembly/local government Partnership Council and the assembly's local government and public services committee.