Headlines: January 22nd, 2003

In a unique agreement local authorities in Wales are to work more closely with the Welsh Assembly and the Audit Commission in an effort to improve public services. The Protocol on the Wales Programme for Improvements has been agreed by the Partnership Council set up by the government to promote co-operation between councils and the Assembly.The Protocol will succeed the Best Value regime and will include the creation of an Improvement Board, with representatives of all the key players in the Wales Programme, which will report back to the Partnership Council.

The Local Government and Communities Minister in the Assembly, Edwina Hart, said the Audit Commission had doubly recognised that Wales was different, by appointing its first Director-General for Wales and by signing up to the protocol.

“The Welsh way to public sector reform emphasises that local authorities must take responsibility for their own improvement with regulators acting to check and support the exercise of that responsibility,” she said. “It is also more natural for us in Wales to take a partnership approach to tackling any challenge. For us to succeed in improving public services in Wales, we need to have shared objectives, a common understanding of each other’s role and continuing good communications,” she added.

The minister said the protocol would allow everyone to have a better understanding of how the Audit Commission would work within the context of Welsh Assembly Government policies. The role of the Welsh Local Government Association and its improvement arm, Syniad, in supporting local authorities to provide better public services is also highlighted in the protocol.