Each council has received a timetable of action signed by former Welsh secretary Ron Davies and Welsh Local Government Association leader Harry Jones.
This timetable suggests members' executive and ordinary roles be separated as far as possible by 30 May next year. It proposes that standards committees could be set up by 31 January. Equal opportunities policies and measures to encourage more women and other under-represented groups to become members or employees could be reviewed in February.
The timetable also reveals steps the Welsh Office will be taking in order to allow for implementation of its Local voices white paper.
An accompanying letter asks Welsh councils to draw up a programme for action by 18 December to be considered by a joint WLGA/Welsh Office working group.
'Local government itself must take the initiative in owning and pushing forward the agenda in advance of the establishment of the national assembly,' the letter from Mr Davies and Mr Jones says.
'There should be no sense that Welsh local government has sat back and waited for the assembly to tell it what to do, but rather we should act now to ensure that the assembly is greeted by a dynamic and effective partner in local government, capable of taking responsibility for modernising itself.'
On the proposed new duty to promote an area's economic and social well-being, councils are asked to notify the Welsh Office by 31 January of any perceived gaps in legislation that would act as a constraint. Discussions are also proposed with the WLGA and the Welsh Office on the role and form community plans might take and how they will relate to other ideas.
Shadow plans should be prepared for 1999-2000, the paper says.