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‘Let communities take control’

Created on 29/11/2016 @ 11:08
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Town and community councils should be given the opportunity to take control of important assets and services in the public interest, according to Montgomeryshire AM, Russell George.

To highlight the problems that some are facing in retaining services, Mr George has highlighted the case of Llanfair Caereinion Town Council who are keen to take on the running of the Town Library from the County Council in an effort to save it from closure.

In spite of the willingness of the Town Council to invest in this important public asset, the legal advice given said that the Town Council is prohibited from investing in the library due to provisions under Section 137 of the Local Government Act.

However, the local authority, Powys County Council, has received opposing legal advice and there is now confusion over the application of Section 137 when it comes to the ability of Town and Community Councils to take control of assets and services.

Under the Act, there is provision to allow a community or town council to incur a limited amount of expenditure for purposes for which it has no other specific power or duty, and which will bring direct benefit to their area or any part of it.

After raising the issue in the National Assembly for Wales with the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government, Mark Drakeford, Mr George said: “It is clear that urgent clarity is required on the circumstances in which town and community councils can take control of important local assets and services which are clearly in the public interest.

“There is a fear that Llanfair Caereinion Library will close without the intervention of the Town Council and it would be a shame if this were allowed to occur as a result of being hamstrung by bureaucracy.

“There is a willingness on behalf of the Town Council to take control of the library but ambiguity and confusion reigns when it comes to the interpretation of the legal position which will allow them to do this under Section 137 of the Local Government Act.

“I was grateful to the Cabinet Secretary for giving his attention to this matter and I welcome his intention to bring forward proposals as part of the Welsh Government’s consultation on Local Government reform which will clarify the law in relation to the power and capabilities of town and community councils in taking on services and assets.

“In the meantime, I hope that the Town Council and Powys County Council will be able to come to agreement which will see the future of the library safeguarded.”

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