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WLGA WELCOMES POLICY STATUS FOR PARTNERSHIP BODY

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All seven Cabinet members on the Welsh Assembly will sit on the new Partnership Council with local government, firs...
All seven Cabinet members on the Welsh Assembly will sit on the new Partnership Council with local government, first secretary Alun Michael has made clear.

The news was welcomed by the Welsh Local Government Association, which has consistently argued that the partnership body should be accorded the highest possible status.

An Assembly debate on the Partnership Council has made clear it will be a policy forming body, not simply a mechanism for consulting local government.

'I am confident partnership between local government and the Assembly - the two democratically elected institutions in Wales - is not just a requirement in the legislation but a fundamental principle that will be supported by the members of the Assembly from all parties,' Mr Michael said.

Paul Griffiths, head of corporate affairs at the WLGA, said he was encouraged by the debate, in particular the emphasis on the Partnership Council as a means of joint policy development.

The WLGA had earlier issued members with a briefing which warned: 'Already there are those who define the Partnership Council as a means whereby the Assembly 'consults' and 'informs' its agent, local government.'

In an interview with LGC published last week, environment secretary Peter Law stressed the council would be an advisory body, saying: 'It is an important body that will be listened to . . . but it won't be policy formulating.'

He also dented hopes that local government would be formally involved in policy through other assembly forums. But Sue Essex, chair of the Assembly's policy-forming environment committee, has made clear that she expects her committee to have its own direct relationship with local government.

The WLGA has in the past been concerned that its relationship with the Assembly could become marginalised if it was confined to the Partnership Council.

The council 'can become the keystone to the relationship between the Assembly and local government; but there should be no assumption that it can be the whole relationship', the WLGA briefing for Assembly members says.

Mr Michael said he hoped to meet the WLGA in early July to discuss further the workings of the Partnership Council.

There will also be talks on increasing the number of Assembly representatives on the Partnership Council. News that the Cabinet would absorb seven of the 10 Partnership Council seats set aside for Assembly members prompted immediate complaints from opposition parties that they would be denied sufficient representation.

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