'Freedom and Responsibility in Local Government' - the Welsh equivalent to DTLR's recent Local Government White Paper - is a landmark for the partnership between the Welsh assembly and local government in Wales and provides a coherent framework for modernisation.
Launching the document with Welsh LGA leader Harry Jones at Swansea's County Hall, Mrs Hart said: 'This document is the first opportunity for the Welsh assembly government, with help from local government, to set out a clear vision for the future of local government in Wales. It is also an important opportunity to set out a clear and coherent framework for the governance of Wales, setting out the
strategic role of the assembly and the important work which local government undertakes in identifying and delivering local and national priorities.
'Wales is already a leader in the modernisation arena. Local authorities in Wales have moved ahead of the statutory timetable to establish new political management structures and we have a created a single new framework for standards of conduct, embracing all county councils, town and community councils, national parks authorities and fire authorities in Wales and giving the commissioner for local administration a new role in overseeing it.
'Our vision for local government is of local authorities which:
* provide clear leadership for their communities
* deliver and secure high quality services for their local communities
are open, accessible and accountable
'To achieve this vision we need to set out a number of commitments for both local authorities and ourselves. For example, we will expect local authorities to be innovative and take a long term view, to be learning organisations, be committed to sound performance and financial management, to deliver continuous improvement of their services and to work with their communities, other organisations and each other.'
Mrs Hart added: 'It is important that if we expect local authorities to deliver continuous improvement that Welsh assembly government provides adequate support for local authorities to achieve this. This support is not just about finance, it is about helping local authorities to develop their skills base for both members and officers and providing support for key activities such as procurement.
'We believe that this document is a milestone for local government in Wales. We have set out a clear framework for the governance of Wales and within that what the assembly and what local authorities will need to do to ensure that everyone in Wales lives in a safe, strong, vibrant community where public services are of the highest possible standard.'
* see LGCnetfor the WLGA's response.
* the full document is available here.