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Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb, Llywodraeth Leol a Chymunedau

Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee

09/10/2020

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Caroline Jones MS
Dawn Bowden MS
Delyth Jewell MS
Huw Irranca-Davies MS
John Griffiths MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Mark Isherwood MS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Cath Wyatt Rheolwr y Bil, Llywodraeth Cymru
Bill Manager, Welsh Government
Julie James MS Y Gweinidog Tai a Llywodraeth Leol
Minister for Housing and Local Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Catherine Hunt Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Naomi Stocks Clerc
Clerk
Stephen Davies Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Yan Thomas Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

Cynnwys

Contents

1. Cyflwyniadau, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau 1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest
2. Bil Llywodraeth Leol ac Etholiadau (Cymru): Trafodion Cyfnod 2 2. Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill: Stage 2 Proceedings
3. Grŵp 20: Perfformiad prif gynghorau a’u llywodraethu (Gwelliannau 288, 289, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 215, 44, 45, 46, 47, 146, 147) 3. Group 20: Performance and Governance of principal councils (Amendments 288, 289, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 215, 44, 45, 46, 47, 146, 147)
4. Grŵp 21: Rhan 7 (Gwelliannau 290, 48, 216, 291, 50, 239, 292, 240, 241, 294, 51, 242, 52, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 243, 54) 4. Group 21: Part 7 (Amendments 290, 48, 216, 291, 50, 239, 292, 240, 241, 294, 51, 242, 52, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 243, 54)
5. Grŵp 22: Rhan 8 (Gwelliannau 56, 57, 58) 5. Group 22: Part 8 (Amendments 56, 57, 58)
6. Grŵp 23: Awdurdodau tân ac achub cyfunol: ymchwiliadau (Gwelliant 217) 6. Group 23: Combined fire and rescue authorities: inquiries (Amendment 217)
7. Grŵp 24: Iawndal i brif gynghorau (Gwelliant 218) 7. Group 24: Compensation for principal councils (Amendment 218)
8. Grŵp 25: Rhan 10—Dod i rym (Gwelliannau 64, 148, 149, 65, 66, 245, 246, 247, 67, 248, 68, 69, 249, 219, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 150, 76, 151, 77, 220, 250) 8. Group 25: Part 10—Coming into force (Amendments 64, 148, 149, 65, 66, 245, 246, 247, 67, 248, 68, 69, 249, 219, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 150, 76, 151, 77, 220, 250)
9. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i Benderfynu Gwahardd y Cyhoedd o Weddill y Cyfarfod 9. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to Resolve to Exclude the Public from the Remainder of the Meeting

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 10:00.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 10:00. 

1. Cyflwyniadau, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau
1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

Welcome, Members, to this virtual meeting of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee. In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I have determined that the public are excluded from the committee's meeting in order to protect public health. In accordance with Standing Order 34.21, notice of this decision was included in the agenda for this meeting published on Tuesday of this week. This meeting is, however, being broadcast live on Senedd.tv with all participants joining via video-conference. A Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. 

Aside from the procedural adaptation relating to conducting proceedings remotely, all other Standing Order requirements for committees remain in place. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. I remind all participants that microphones will be controlled centrally, so you do not need to turn them on or off individually, but you should accept the prompt to unmute from the sound engineer each time you are called to speak. Are there any declarations of interest? No. 

2. Bil Llywodraeth Leol ac Etholiadau (Cymru): Trafodion Cyfnod 2
2. Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill: Stage 2 Proceedings

Then, item 2 on our agenda today is the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill—Stage 2 proceedings. I'm very pleased that we are joined again by Julie James MS, Minister for Housing and Local Government. Welcome, Minister. The purpose of this meeting is to continue to undertake Stage 2 proceedings on the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill. Stage 2 consideration began in committee on 2 October. At that meeting, sections 1 to 87 and Schedules 2 to 8 were deemed to be agreed. 

In relation to this item, Members should have before them the updated marshalled list of amendments and the updated groupings of the amendments for debate. The marshalled list of amendments is the list of all remaining amendments marshalled into the order agreed by the committee at its meeting on 16 July. The order in which we will consider amendments is outlined on the agenda. You will see from the groupings list that amendments have been grouped to facilitate debate. Amendments that were disposed of on 2 October have been struck through on the updated list. The order in which amendments are called and moved for a decision is dictated by the marshalled list. I will advise Members when I call them whether they are being called to speak in the debate or to move their amendments for a decision. There will be one debate on each group of amendments.

The first group of amendments to be debated today will be group 20. Members who wish to speak in a particular group should indicate this in the usual way. I will call the Minister to speak on each group. For the record, in accordance with the convention agreed by the Business Committee, as Chair I will move amendments in the name of the Minister. For expediency, I will assume that the Minister wishes to me to move all her amendments, and I will do so at the appropriate place in the marshalled list. Minister, if you do not want a particular amendment to be moved, please indicate this at the relevant point in proceedings. 

In line with our usual practice, legal advisers to the committee and the Minister are not expected to provide advice on the record. If Members wish to seek legal advice during proceedings, please do so by sending a direct message to the legal adviser through Zoom. If necessary, I will call an adjournment or the legal adviser will reply to you directly. As this is a virtual meeting, all votes will be undertaken through a roll-call, as agreed by the committee on 21 September. I will call each Member in alphabetical order and invite you to state whether you wish to vote in favour or against the amendment, or to abstain. I will state my own vote and declare the result. 

3. Grŵp 20: Perfformiad prif gynghorau a’u llywodraethu (Gwelliannau 288, 289, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 215, 44, 45, 46, 47, 146, 147)
3. Group 20: Performance and Governance of principal councils (Amendments 288, 289, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 215, 44, 45, 46, 47, 146, 147)

Group 20, then, relates to performance and governance of principal councils. The lead amendment is amendment 288, in the name of Delyth Jewell. I call on Delyth Jewell to move amendment 288 and speak to this amendment and other amendments in this group. Delyth. 

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 288 (Delyth Jewell).

Amendment 288 (Delyth Jewell) moved.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. We have a couple of amendments in this group, but they are probing. So, to first talk about amendment 288, performance targets of local authorities have regularly been raised with us as having unintended consequences or harming in some cases vital scrutiny. So, this probing amendment covers that. An example of a specific target that does this is one that measures the amount of decisions made by planning officers that are overturned by a planning committee. We feel this target creates unintended consequences in that planning officers are too defensive sometimes about the recommendations and have the incentive to ignore concerns raised by a committee. We don't feel that this type of target helps the scrutiny process, hence why we've tabled this amendment. I'm sure there are other targets that might not be measuring the right things, so a duty to review seems the best way of dealing with this problem. We do appreciate this might not be the specific piece of legislation for this or even whether the legislation is necessary, and we'd be happy if further discussions could occur on performance targets, how they're set and kept under review.

Amendment 289 is again a probing amendment for officers to engage with all political groups. It's an amendment to clarify that officers should be engaging with all groups to help them, including in developing and proposing alternatives. It links with our previous amendment, which we discussed in our last session, about establishing a research service for councils—that is, we feel backbench members need more formal mechanisms of support in fulfilling their roles, and we're interested in hearing the Government's view on this. Diolch.

10:05

Diolch, thank you. Good morning. First of all, we support Delyth Jewell's amendment 288 because we consider it important that Welsh Ministers do not interfere in local decision-making processes, which is what this amendment also seeks to prevent. But it's also important that Ministers provide leadership by working with local councils to ensure that they're achieving positive outcomes for the people they represent. We believe Welsh Ministers must also ensure that they involve local councils as well as local people and community-based organisations throughout the reviewing of performance indicators and targets.

We also support Delyth Jewell's amendment 289 and believe it's vital that all elected Members are involved in the decision-making process of an executive, regardless of political differences. Executive senior officers must create opportunities for meaningful involvement within the decision-making process, through deliberative processes, using involvement to help co-produce services. Involvement approaches include working with people at earlier stages, helping to identify issues and potential solutions, and supporting them to remain involved right throughout design, implementation and evaluation processes.

We will also be supporting all other amendments in this group. And I will be moving amendment 215, which seeks to introduce a new provision to allow local town and community councils to be invited to be party to panel performance assessments—in other words, to be involved. The Bill as drafted requires each principal council to appoint a panel at least once during each electoral cycle to assess its performance. In written evidence to the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee, One Voice Wales, representing town and community councils, stated that they would welcome further discussions on the role that community and town councillors could play regarding membership of the panel assessment process. It added that it advocates the potential for community and town councils to support the scrutiny endeavours of principal councils. As principal councils and town and community councils frequently collaborate and work together on issues, this would allow town and community councils to provide feedback on their experiences of working with the principal council through formal mechanisms, as well as providing recommendations to improve local involvement within the decision-making process. I will be moving, as I say, accordingly.

Okay. Thank you, Mark. Are there other Members who wish to speak? No, then I call on the Minister to speak.

Thank you, Chair. This group deals with amendments to Part 6 of the Bill, which provides for a new performance and governance regime for principal councils. I'm unable to support amendment 288 as presented. Whilst I have an enormous amount of sympathy with the principle, it may have unintended consequences in practice, and as Delyth has acknowledged, it's not in keeping with the purpose of this Part of the Bill, really, quite. The new performance regime introduced in Part 6 is not about setting targets or indicators; it's about a broader, sector-led, council-wide assessment of how a council is organised and the strategic decisions it makes to achieve all of its objectives, goals and targets. It's about their ability to remain capable to respond to the changing environment in which they operate, and the approach aims to support and promote good decision making within principal councils within a regime that they can own and fit to their own individual processes. 

The Welsh Government is, however, committed to keeping under review any performance measures that are in place for principal councils and ensuring that any measures support and promote good decision making. But I think this is best achieved as part of the process of agreeing those measures within those specific areas as opposed to this broader, sector-led regime. The vast majority of those performance indicators are set out in specific statutory instruments and we're very happy to look at reviewing specifics, as Delyth has said, but that's the best place to do it rather than on the face of this particular Bill.

And again, I have a lot of sympathy with the sentiment expressed in amendment 289, but I'm not supporting it, I'm afraid. Effective, respectful relationships between members and officers go to the heart of good governance. However, as drafted, there are a number of potential unintended consequences arising from this proposed amendment. For example, what would happen about independent members not in political groups? What is meant by 'budgets and policies'? Primary legislation has got to be precise about those matters and not a statement of good intentions. I don't think that primary legislation is the place to address those concerns. So, what we'll do is look for other ways to ensure members of the opposition are fully supported by officers who, of course, legally serve the council as a whole and not just the executive. So, it's not split in the way that governments are: the officers serve the entire council. So, for example, we could consider whether guidance could be issued in relation to what constitutes effective support for scrutiny from all officers of the council. It's perfectly possible to do that.

Again, I recognise the intention behind amendment 215, although unfortunately I'm not able to support the amendment, because section 93 already allows for regulations to be made about the appointment of panels, which may include provisions about the appointment of members of a panel. Any such regulations would be subject to formal consultation and, subject to amendment 63 being supported by the committee, further scrutiny through the affirmative procedure of the Welsh Parliament. Before specifying particular membership of panels in legislation, it would be important to work through the purpose of the involvement of all specified members, including the examples that Mark Isherwood has given of community and town councils. It's also important to note that while the provisions in the Bill will give the Welsh Ministers powers to make regulations in relation to the appointment of panel members, our intention is actually to cover this through guidance in the first instance.

Turning to the amendments I've tabled, section 90 of the Bill places a duty on principal councils to report on their performance through a self-assessment report in respect of each financial year. Amendment 40 responds to the recommendation 26 of this committee and clarifies when the self-assessment report in respect of a financial year must be made. I'm happy to accept the committee's recommendation, but I don't think it's appropriate to specify a deadline for when the self-assessment report should be made. The amendment, therefore, specifies that the self-assessment report should be prepared as soon as reasonably practical following the end of the financial year to which the report relates. This is consistent with other requirements in respect of annual reports, such as the annual reports on progress and meeting well-being objectives under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. The Bill allows for the self-assessment report and the report on the progress in meeting well-being objectives to be published in the same document.

Amendment 41 is a technical amendment that seeks to ensure that the reference to the frequency of panel performance assessments using—. I'll start that again, Chair; that's a real tongue twister. It's a technical amendment that seeks to ensure that the reference to the frequency of panel performance assessments uses drafting consistent with Part 1 of the Bill, which the committee has already looked at. The policy intent remains the same and the period of time within which a principal council must make arrangements for a panel performance assessment is unchanged. Amendment 43 is then consequential on this amendment.

A number of minor technical amendments have also been made to refine the provisions in Part 6. Amendments 39, 42, 45, 46 and 47 make technical changes in relation to definitions contained within the Part. They remove duplicated definitions and confirm which sections the definitions apply to. Amendment 44 is a technical amendment to ensure consistency of drafting throughout section 102 and amendments 146 and 147 relate to the repeal of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009. Amendment 147 partially repeals section 33 of the Measure, retaining the provisions relating to information shared in connection with the Auditor General for Wales as relevant functions under section 17 and 19 of the Measure. Amendment 146 provides for the full repeal of section 33 when appropriate. Diolch, Chair.

10:15

Thank you very much, Minister. I call on Delyth Jewell to reply to the debate.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. I thank everyone for taking part in this debate. I was gratified to hear Mark Isherwood indicating support of the principle behind the amendments that we've placed in this group. Although I won't be moving them formally, I'm gratified to hear that we do have that support and if amendment 215 is moved, we will be supporting that, because of supporting the principle.

I do acknowledge the points that the Minister made in terms of possible unintended consequences of the drafting of amendments 288 and 289. I'd indicated in my opening remarks we'd intended these probing amendments in order to facilitate a debate, and I do welcome the assurance that the Minister's given that the Government will look at other ways of pursuing these principles, possibly through guidance. So, I'm grateful that we've had this debate and that it's on the record. Diolch yn fawr.

All right. It's already been moved, so you would need—

You're happy to withdraw it, Delyth. Okay, thanks very much. So, amendment 288, then, is withdrawn.

Tynnwyd gwelliant 288 yn ôl gyda chaniatâd y pwyllgor.

Amendment 288 withdrawn by leave of the committee.

Amendment 289, Delyth; do you wish to move amendment 289?

No. I'm happy with what we've discussed in the debate. Diolch.

Okay. Does any other Member wish to move amendment 289? No. Then amendment 289 is not moved.

Ni chynigiwyd gwelliant 289 (Delyth Jewell). 

Amendment 289 (Delyth Jewell) not moved.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 39 (Julie James).

Amendment 39 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 39 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 39 be agreed.

Sorry, I'm just aware at this stage that we seem to have lost Caroline Jones. I understand our ICT people are attempting to make contact with Caroline now to restore her link. Perhaps we'll take a short break at this stage of just hopefully five minutes, until 10:25, and hopefully we'll have Caroline restored at that stage. Okay. Short break till 10.25 a.m.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:17 a 10:24.

The meeting adjourned between 10:17 and 10:24.

10:20

After a technological difficulty, we resume our public broadcast. We have reached amendment 39 in our proceedings, and I move amendment 39 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 39 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Yes. Then I will take a vote. The question is that amendment 39 be agreed. Dawn Bowden, please state your vote.

10:25

And I vote for. Therefore, in relation to amendment 39, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is agreed.

Gwelliant 39: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 39: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 40 (Julie James).

Amendment 40 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 40 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 40 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There is an objection. The question then is that amendment 40 be agreed. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, in relation to amendment 40, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is agreed.

Gwelliant 40: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 40: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 41 (Julie James).

Amendment 41 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 41 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 41 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There is an objection, so we will move to a vote. The question is that amendment 41 be agreed. Dawn Bowden, please state your vote.

Therefore, in relation to amendment 41, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is agreed.

Gwelliant 41: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 41: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 42 (Julie James).

Amendment 42 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 42 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 42 be agreed, does any Member object? [Objection.] There is an objection, so we will move to a vote. The question is that amendment be agreed. Dawn Bowden, how do you vote?

And I vote in favour. Therefore, in relation to amendment 42, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is agreed.

Gwelliant 42: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 42: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 43 (Julie James).

Amendment 43 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 43 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 43 be agreed, does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and amendment 43 is agreed.

Gwelliant 43: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 43: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 215 (Mark Isherwood).

Amendment 215 (Mark Isherwood) moved.

Amendment 215 is moved. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There is an objection. Therefore, we will move to a vote. So, the question is then that amendment 215 be agreed. Dawn Bowden, how do you vote?

And I vote against. Therefore, in relation to amendment 215, there voted two in favour, three against, with one abstention, and it is not agreed.

Gwelliant 215: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 1

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 215: For: 2, Against: 3, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 44 (Julie James).

Amendment 44 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 44 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 44 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and amendment 44 is therefore agreed.

Gwelliant 44: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 44: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 45 (Julie James).

Amendment 45 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 45 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 45 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and amendment 45 is therefore agreed.

Gwelliant 45: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 45: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 46 (Julie James).

Amendment 46 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 46 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 46 be agreed, does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, in relation to amendment 46, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is agreed.

10:30

Gwelliant 46: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 46: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 47 (Julie James).

Amendment 47 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 47 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 47 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

I vote in favour. Therefore, in relation to amendment 47, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is agreed.

Gwelliant 47: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 47: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 146 (Julie James).

Amendment 146 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 146 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 146 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

I vote in favour. Therefore, in relation to amendment 146, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is agreed.

Gwelliant 146: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 146: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

4. Grŵp 21: Rhan 7 (Gwelliannau 290, 48, 216, 291, 50, 239, 292, 240, 241, 294, 51, 242, 52, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 243, 54)
4. Group 21: Part 7 (Amendments 290, 48, 216, 291, 50, 239, 292, 240, 241, 294, 51, 242, 52, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 243, 54)

Okay, we move, then, to group 21, relating to Part 7 of the Bill. The lead amendment is amendment 290 in the name of Delyth Jewell, and I call on Delyth Jewell to move amendment 290, and speak to this amendment and other amendments in this group. Delyth.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 290 (Delyth Jewell).

Amendment 290 (Delyth Jewell) moved.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I hope that this amendment is straightforward—it's a probing amendment again. So, amendment 290 was tabled to clarify whether merged councils should be required to prepare a new local development plan to reflect the changes and new requirements of the area. Again, I hope it's relatively self-explanatory. Diolch.

Okay. Diolch yn fawr, Delyth. I call on Mark Isherwood to speak.

In this group, our amendment 216 seeks to remove the power for local authorities or Welsh Ministers to decide on what voting system is to be used in the first ordinary election of councillors to the principal council for a new principal area. The section 125 voting system allows for merger regulations to specify what electoral system—first-past-the-post or single transferrable vote—is to be used in the first elections to a newly created principal council. Our amendment seeks to remove this choice, ensuring that first-past-the-post is used in any local government election to ensure consistency of local government electoral systems across Wales, unless and until the calls by virtually every witness to committee for an all-Wales system or no change are addressed. 

Okay, thank you, Mark. Are there any other Members who wish to speak? No, then I call on the Minister to speak.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Whilst I understand the sentiment behind amendment 290, I can't support it because the main purpose is already provided for in the Bill. Section 123 provides for the transfer of the functions of the merging councils to the new principal council. This must take place on the transfer date, when the merging councils are abolished and the new council assumes their functions. As preparing a local development plan is a function of a principal council, it will transfer to the new council on the transfer date by virtue of section 123, so there is no need to restate it. 

I also feel that the timescale given in the amendment is unrealistic. The development plans manual sets out a realistic time period of three and a half years, plus a one-off three-month slippage period within which to prepare an LDP. The 18 months specified in this amendment would not allow sufficient time for local communities to engage fully in the plan-making process.

I think it's worth pointing out, though, that if you were in—it depends where the cycle of the LDP is. So, obviously, preparatory work on an LDP could begin under a shadow council. It's the actual adoption of the LDP that takes the full cycle, so I think it's worth pointing that out in the light of Delyth's comments earlier. 

Then, in terms of amendment 216, we're not supporting that either, I'm afraid. It removes section 125, which requires merger regulations to specify which of the two voting systems will apply to the council created by the merger. I would expect merging councils to agree which system would apply, but in the absence of an agreement a formula is set out in subsection (2)(b) of that section, which takes into account the systems being used by the merging councils.

I can't support amendments 291, 292 and 294 because, obviously, they impose STV on the new councils created by merger or restructuring. This runs counter to the principle of councils being able to choose their voting system as provided for in Part 1 of this Bill, which of course the committee considered in its previous session and rejected. So, amendments to the provisions that provide for this choice are now in the Bill in the Part that the committee considered in its last session.

I also do not support amendments 239 to 242. The amendments seek to omit provisions that set out how a situation, whereby councils involved in a restructure have different voting systems, would be resolved. Without these provisions, it would be unclear as to which of the voting systems would apply. For example, before the first ordinary elections were held across the enlarged authority, a by-election was required in a ward transferred from an abolished authority that used first-past-the-post to an adjoining authority that used STV. The provisions are needed to provide clarity and I recommend that the amendments are therefore rejected on that basis.

And I'm afraid I also cannot support amendment 243, which would omit section 137 whereby the Welsh Ministers may direct the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales to undertake a review of authorities that are the subject of a merger application, or where Ministers have given notice that they propose to make restructuring regulations. If a new authority is being created by a merger or restructuring, there would have to be new electoral wards for the new area and they should be the subject of an initial review by the boundary commission. If, on creating a new authority, by either voluntary merger or restructuring, Ministers are unable to direct the boundary commission to undertake the initial review, the only other option would be for Ministers themselves to do the review, and I'm sure the committee would agree that that's not the best solution to that problem.

The main amendment among the amendments that I've tabled is amendment 54. That consolidates into a single section a range of guidance provisions currently scattered throughout Part 7. These provisions are removed by amendments 48 through 52, 86 and 90. Amendment 54 also expands the list of bodies that must have regard to guidance issued by the Welsh Ministers in relation to Part 7. Such guidance would likely be helpful to those bodies in the circumstances of a merger or restructuring.

Amendments 88 and 89 are technical amendments consequential to amendment 54. And finally, Chair, amendment 87 is a minor technical amendment addressing a typographical error in the Welsh text. Diolch.

10:35

Okay, thank you, Minister. I call on Delyth Jewell to reply to the debate.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I thank everyone for taking part in the debate. I will not be moving the lead amendment.

Okay, Delyth. In that case, it has been moved, so you would need to withdraw.

You're happy to withdraw amendment 290. Amendment 290 is therefore withdrawn.

Tynnwyd gwelliant 290 yn ôl gyda chaniatâd y pwyllgor.

Amendment 290 withdrawn by leave of the committee.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 48 (Julie James).

Amendment 48 (Julie James) moved.

I then move amendment 48 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 48 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so we move, then, to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

Yes, I could see the indication, Huw, thank you. Mark Isherwood. We're unable to hear Mark at the moment either.

Mark is muted, but I don't think he can hear us either.

I did unmute, but it's remuted. So, sorry. What number were we on? I didn't hear you say what number.

We're on amendment 48, Mark, in the name of the Minister.

Okay, and I vote in favour. Therefore, in relation to amendment 48, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is therefore agreed.

Gwelliant 48: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 48: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 216 (Mark Isherwood).

Amendment 216 (Mark Isherwood) moved.

Okay, amendment 216 is moved. The question is that amendment 216 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote against. Therefore, in relation to amendment 216, there voted two in favour, three against, with one abstention, and it is therefore not agreed.

Gwelliant 216: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 1

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 216: For: 2, Against: 3, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 291 (Delyth Jewell).

Amendment 291 (Delyth Jewell) moved.

10:40

Okay. The question is that amendment 291 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We'll move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote against. Therefore, in relation to amendment 291, there voted one in favour, with four against and one abstention, and it is therefore not agreed.

Gwelliant 291: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 1

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 291: For: 1, Against: 4, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 49 (Julie James).

Amendment 49 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 49 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 49 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, in relation to amendment 49, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is therefore agreed.

Gwelliant 49: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 49: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 50 (Julie James).

Amendment 50 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 50 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 50 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and amendment 50 is therefore agreed.

Gwelliant 50: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 50: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 239 (Caroline Jones). 

Amendment 239 (Caroline Jones) moved.

Okay. If amendment 239 is agreed, amendment 292 falls. The question is that amendment 239 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We'll move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote against. Therefore, in relation to amendment 239, there voted two in favour, with four against, and it is not agreed.

Gwelliant 239: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 239: For: 2, Against: 4, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cadeirydd, just to check, this is just a consequential amendment, isn't it? So, no, I won't be moving it.

Does any other Member wish to move amendment 292? No. Then amendment 292 is withdrawn—sorry, is not moved.

Ni chynigiwyd gwelliant 292 (Delyth Jewell).

Amendment 292 (Delyth Jewell) not moved.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 240 (Caroline Jones).

Amendment 240 (Caroline Jones) moved.

Okay. The question is that amendment 240 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote against. Therefore, in relation to amendment 240, there voted two in favour, with four against, and it is not agreed.

Gwelliant 240: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 240: For: 2, Against: 4, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 241 (Caroline Jones).

Amendment 241 (Caroline Jones) moved.

If amendment 241 is agreed, amendment 294 falls. The question is that amendment 241 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote against. Therefore, in relation to amendment 241, there voted two in favour, with four against, and it is not agreed.

Gwelliant 241: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 241: For: 2, Against: 4, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Again, Cadeirydd, forgive me, I think that this is a consequential amendment, and in which case, no, I will not be moving it.

Does any other Member wish to move amendment 294? No. Then amendment 294 is not moved.

Ni chynigiwyd gwelliant 294 (Delyth Jewell).

Amendment 294 (Delyth Jewell) not moved.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 51 (Julie James).

Amendment 51 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 51 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 51 be agreed. Does any Member object? No. Then amendment 51 is agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 242 (Caroline Jones).

Amendment 242 (Caroline Jones) moved.

Okay. The question is that amendment 242 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote against. Therefore, there voted two in favour, with four against, and amendment 242 is not agreed.

10:45

Gwelliant 242: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 242: For: 2, Against: 4, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 52 (Julie James).

Amendment 52 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 52 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 52 be agreed. Does any Member object? No. Then amendment 52 is agreed. 

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 86 (Julie James).

Amendment 86 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 86 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 86 be agreed. Does any Member object? No. Then amendment 86 is agreed. 

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 87 (Julie James).

Amendment 87 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 87 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 87 be agreed. Does any Member object? No. Then amendment 87 is agreed. 

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 88 (Julie James).

Amendment 88 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 88 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 88 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay. There is an objection, so we will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, in relation to amendment 88, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is agreed.

Gwelliant 88: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 88: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 89 (Julie James).

Amendment 89 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 89 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 89 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay, we will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, in relation to amendment 89, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is agreed.

Gwelliant 89: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 89: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 90 (Julie James).

Amendment 90 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 90 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 90 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay. We will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and amendment 90 is therefore agreed.

Gwelliant 90: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 90: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 243 (Caroline Jones).

Amendment 243 (Caroline Jones) moved.

Okay. The question is that amendment 243 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay. We move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote against. Therefore, in relation to amendment 243, there voted two in favour, with four against, and it is not agreed.

Gwelliant 243: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 243: For: 2, Against: 4, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 251 (Caroline Jones).

Amendment 251 (Caroline Jones) moved.

Okay. The question is that amendment 251 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay. We will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote against. Therefore, in relation to amendment 251, there voted two in favour, with four against, and it is not agreed.

Gwelliant 251: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 251: For: 2, Against: 4, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 53 (Julie James).

Amendment 53 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 53 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 53 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We'll move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, in relation to amendment 53, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is therefore agreed.

Gwelliant 53: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 53: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 54 (Julie James).

Amendment 54 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 54 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 54 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay. We will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, in relation to amendment 54, there voted five in favour, with one against, and it is therefore agreed.

Gwelliant 54: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 1, Ymatal: 0

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 54: For: 5, Against: 1, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 55 (Julie James).

Amendment 55 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 55 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 55 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Okay. We will move to a vote. Dawn Bowden.

And I vote in favour. Therefore, in relation to amendment 55, there voted five in favour, with one abstention, and it is therefore agreed. 

10:50

Gwelliant 55: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 0, Ymatal: 1

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 55: For: 5, Against: 0, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been agreed

5. Grŵp 22: Rhan 8 (Gwelliannau 56, 57, 58)
5. Group 22: Part 8 (Amendments 56, 57, 58)

Part 8 of the Bill is covered by group 22, and the lead amendment in the group is amendment 56, in the name of the Minister. 

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 56 (Julie James).

Amendment 56 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 56 in the name of the Minister and call on the Minister to speak to this amendment and other amendments in this group. Minister. 

Thank you, Chair. Amendments 56 and 57 are minor technical amendments to address an incorrect cross-reference to a subparagraph. The substantive amendment in this group is amendment 58, which makes provisions in respect of council tax liability. The primary intention behind this amendment relates to care leavers' liability for the payment of council tax. Under the Local Government Finance Act 1992, council tax is payable in relation to chargeable dwellings. The Welsh Ministers have powers under that Act to prescribe classes of dwellings as exempt dwellings, therefore rendering them exempt from the payment of council tax. Subordinate legislation has been made classing as exempt any dwelling that comprises solely of care leavers, students and/or persons who are severely mentally impaired.

As Members will be aware, there are also existing provisions that provide for a discount on the amount of council tax payable in certain circumstances. For example, under the 1992 Act, a discount of 25 per cent is available where a person lives alone or two or more persons live together and all but one are disregarded for the purposes of council tax.

The Welsh Ministers may prescribe classes of persons who are to be to disregarded for the purposes of council tax. This allows a billing authority to treat such a person as non-existent for the purpose of determining applicable discounts. This Government made subordinate legislation in 2019 in this respect so as to provide for care leavers to be disregarded. However, the Welsh Ministers do not have power to exempt care leavers from being jointly and severally liable for the payment of council tax. This leaves us in the situation whereby a care leaver is essentially exempt from council tax, however if living with a person who's liable for council tax and that person fails to pay, the care leaver is considered jointly and severally liable.

The amendment addresses this unacceptable anomaly by enabling the Welsh Ministers to specify in regulations that classes of persons disregarded for the purpose of council tax are also not to be held jointly or severally liable for that tax. Diolch, Cadeirydd. 

Okay. Thank you, Minister. Are there other Members who wish to speak? No. I see no other Members wishing to speak, so there is no debate to reply to, Minister. Minister, do you wish to proceed with a vote on amendment 56?

Yes, okay. So, the question is that amendment 56 be agreed. Does any Member object? No. Then amendment 56 is agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 57 (Julie James).

Amendment 57 (Julie James) moved.

I move Amendment 57 in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 57 be agreed. Does any Member object? Object, Caroline?

Yes. We will move, then, to a vote on amendment 57. Dawn Bowden.