12/05/2022

Wales News Online

Local & National News for Wales

A MOVE designed to force more joint working between councils has come under further attack after being described as another “unelected” and “unnecessary” tier of government.

Introduced thanks to recent legislation, the new Corporate Joint Committees (CJC) will make decisions on regional transport, land use and promote economic well-being on a regional rather than county level.

The move means that such CJCs are now in the process of being set up in south west, south east, mid and north Wales – despite strong opposition from many local authorities.

Legal entities in their own right, these bodies will now be responsible for employing their own staff, co-opting members and having their own budgets, with the Welsh Government arguing it will lead to more consistency on matters requiring a regional approach while also making better use of expertise and specialist resources.

But opponents fear it will mean less accountability and could also see smaller and more rural councils miss out at the expense of larger neighbours.

A report presented to Anglesey Council’s Executive confirmed that the north Wales CJC – combining the island with Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Wrexham and Flintshire – must agree to a budget by January 31 before the new body ‘goes live’ on June 30, 2022.

Building on the principle of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board (EAB) and Growth Bid – which saw all six authorities willingly sign up to – the Snowdonia National Park Authority is an additional voting member when it comes to strategic planning and budget settling.

But with the councils set to be billed annually for the running of the respective committees, there are also fears that key staff could be lost to these new bodies.

Addressing Monday’s meeting of Anglesey Council’s Executive, the leader conceded that despite vociferously opposing their setting up, “there was little that could be done” now that the legislation had been passed.

Cllr Robin Williams, the portfolio holder for finance, added: “This idea goes against the grain when it comes to democracy.

“The Government in Cardiff Bay has been elected, we as councillors have been elected, but they’re shoving in this layer of bureaucracy in the middle which will cost hundreds of thousands every year for us on Anglesey and every other authority in Wales.

“The public must be aware of this, which will be funded by a levy system and us being billed on an annual basis. We have no choice in the matter but it’s disgraceful.”

Cllr Bob Parry, who leads on highways, added: “In some ways this revives a body that used to exist, the Taith North Wales Joint Transport Board, but it reported back to our own council.

“Now decisions will be taken out of our hands and as an island we won’t have as much clout as councils such as Wrexham and Flint.

“I’m not happy at all that we have to pay for this as well and it’s also very easy that we’ll lose staff (to the new CJC).”

The Executive passed a resolution calling on the Welsh Government to wholly fund the new bodies, given the opposition of Anglesey and other authorities in their setting up.

According to the Welsh Government, the establishment of CJCs will ensure local authorities will be able to do even more in their regions to lead the way in transport planning, land use planning and economic development.

A spokesperson added: “They offer a consistent approach to strategic planning and delivery at scale, where it makes sense to do so.

“A CJC will not be the only vehicle for local government collaboration, but will provide local authorities with a powerful new tool where appropriate.

“They build on existing successful regional arrangements, such as the North Wales Economic Ambition Board.

“Local Authority Leaders will be CJC members, putting accountability and local leadership at the heart of the decision making process.”

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