Voting age lowered to 16 for local gov in Wales

A bill to reform local government elections, democracy, performance and governance has been passed in the Senedd, reducing the voting age in local government elections.

Exactly a year since it was introduced, the Welsh Government says that the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill will provide increased opportunities for public participation and transparency in local government.

The Bill will reduce the voting age in local government elections to 16 and 17 year-olds and extend the franchise to foreign citizens legally resident in Wales, allowing them to have a say in how their communities are run. This reflects the rights of 16 to 17 year olds and qualifying foreign citizens to register and vote in the Senedd elections next year.

Councils will now be required to consult and publish a public participation strategy with the aim of making it easier for local people to understand how local government functions; how it makes decisions; how local people can follow proceedings and how they can input their views and have them taken into account. To help facilitate greater participation, the bill seeks to promote more effective use of petitions within local government, introducing petitions schemes already in place with other public bodies including the Senedd.

Julie James, Minister for Housing and Local Government, said: “This Bill will enable a local democracy which reflects our diversity as a nation, provide local government with new ways to support and serve their communities and reinvigorate local democracy in Wales.

“The ways in which we live and work in Wales are constantly changing and our public service organisations are working hard to keep pace with that change. I believe we now have a Bill which will deliver effective reform and has been designed with local government. Anything we do to achieve greater accessibility and improved public participation in local government will be hugely valuable to Welsh democracy.

“The Bill ensures that local authorities can take a lead in making the arrangements that ensure the regions of Wales can take responsibility for their shared interest in transport planning, land use planning and economic development. This is the next step in devolution in which Welsh Government supports the regions of Wales in exercising control over what matters to them. Some provisions in the Bill, particularly the introduction of the general power of competence and corporate joint committees, will enable councils to build on the innovation and joint working which has been central to dealing with the pandemic.”

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