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Law to make Welsh councils share services "as soon as possible"

Credit: Senedd TV

A new law to compel the 22 Welsh local authorities to share services rather than try to do everything themselves will be passed as soon as possible, the First Minister has told AMs. The Welsh government has abandoned plans to cut the number of councils but wants to see much more co-operation.

We will have to change the law to force local authorities to work together. Legislation will be placed before the Assembly as soon as possible.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

Carwyn Jones told AMs on an Assembly scrutiny committee that education consortia, where councils co-operate in providing support to schools, were working well.

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If AMs can't agree on First Minister, there'll be another election

The Assembly authorities have issued guidance on how a failure to nominate a First Minister would eventually lead to a new election. Carwyn Jones remains in post for now -he serves "at Her Majesty's pleasure" but AMs have 28 days to either nominate him once again to the Queen or put forward somebody else. The 28 days began on polling day -May 5- and end on June 1.

The First Minister of Wales is the leader of the Welsh Government and is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen following nomination by Assembly Members.

A First Minister must be nominated by the Assembly within 28 days, so by the end of 1 June 2016. The First Minister is nominated by the Assembly and the nomination is submitted by the Presiding Officer for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's approval. She is responsible for appointing the First Minister. If a First Minister isn't nominated within 28 days of the election, another Welsh general election must be held.

The Presiding Officer, following consultation with the political parties, will notify Members of the date and time of the next Plenary meeting, where another vote by roll call can take place.

– National Assembly for Wales

Elin Jones is new Assembly Presiding Officer

Ceredigion AM Elin Jones has been elected the new Presiding Officer of the National Assembly.

She defeated her Plaid Cymru colleague Dafydd Elis-Thomas by 34 votes to 25. There was one abstention.

The Presiding Officer holds significant powers and responsibilities that make the position the single most important office in the National Assembly for Wales.

The role shapes every aspect of the Assembly – from its day-to-day operation, the routine management of business, to its development as the primary democratic institution in Wales, its position in the constitution of the UK and its standing in the eyes of the public.

In paying tribute to her predecessor Elin Jones AM said: “Dame Rosemary Butler has been an excellent ambassador for the Assembly over the past five years."

She has broken down barriers to participation in the democratic process in Wales, particularly amongst women through her Women in Public Life campaign; for young people by placing them firmly at the centre of Assembly business and created more opportunities to hold the Welsh Government to account.

I look forward to building on her the success she has had in making the work that we, as Assembly Members, do here at the Senedd.

– Elin Jones AM, Presiding Officer for Wales
  1. Nick Powell

Melding won't stand for Presiding Officer

The Conservative AM David Melding, who was Deputy Presiding Officer in the last Assembly, has ruled himself out of standing to succeed Dame Rosemary Butler as Presiding Officer.

Assembly rules require that the roles of Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officer are shared between the Government and Opposition. Which opposition party loses one its AMs to a politically neutral role will have a significant impact on the balance of power in the Senedd.

After much soul searching I have come to realise that I am at my best as one of life’s lieutenants. For this reason I do not believe that I am the right person to lead the National Assembly through its next stage of development. I am very grateful to family, friends and colleagues who have given me such generous support and provided me the space to make this decision.

Consequently,I will not seek nomination to become the Assembly’s Presiding Officer.

I look forward to making a full contribution to the work of the 5th Assembly and in particular initiatives to strengthen Welsh democracy and the efficiency of public services.

– David Melding AM

David Melding's decision brings other names into play. One possibility is that Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, who was Presiding Officer in the first three Assemblies, will return to the post. He has often proved a troublesome backbencher for Plaid Leader Leanne Wood but ultimately it's a decision for all AMs, who will vote in a secret ballot if there's more than one candidate.

The sole remaining Liberal Democrat AM, Kirsty Williams, could be a popular choice but if she became Presiding Officer, her party would lose its voice in the Senedd.

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AMs call for strengthening of Ombudsman's powers

Credit: PA

A Welsh Assembly committee has called for a new law to strengthen the powers of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

The Finance Committee has considered how the Ombudsman role could be developed in order to 'future proof' the position

The Committee has suggested the following changes:

  • Own initiative investigation powers.
  • Full discretion for the Ombudsman to decide how complains can be made.
  • Complaints handling across public services.
  • Extending the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to include the private healthcare providers.

The Ombudsman plays a vital role in ensuring that any member of the public who believes they have suffered injustice through maladministration or service failure by a public body, is able to make a complaint with the reassurance that their complaint will be dealt with fairly and independently.

For this reason, we sincerely hope this legislation is taken forward during the Fifth Assembly and that its implementation will enhance the role of the Ombudsman and increase public confidence in Wales.

– Jocelyn Davies AM, Chair of the Finance Committee

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales welcomed the proposals:

This is a real opportunity for the Fifth Assembly to hit the ground running with concrete proposals that will lead to improved public services in Wales and empower the citizen.

I hope the Assembly considers carefully the detailed work of the Finance Committee conducted under the outgoing chair Jocelyn Davies, and we can get on with the job of delivering legislation that will put social justice at the heart of the complaints system.

– Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales
  1. Nick Powell

Public Health Bill defeated

The Public Health Bill has been defeated in the Senedd after the final vote on the proposed law was tied with 26 votes for and 26 against.

The Presiding Officer was then required to use her casting vote to halt the legislation.

E-cigarette ban fails after Plaid Cymru withdraw support. Credit: PA Images

The Welsh Government, which has no majority in the Assembly, had been relying on the support of Plaid Cymru AMs to pass its proposals, which included restrictions on the smoking of e-cigarettes.

Relations between the two parties broke down this afternoon following a row over earlier legislation.

The defeat was the final act before the Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler, announced the end of the 2011-2016 Assembly.

It won't meet again before it's dissolved next month, prior to the election in May.

  1. Nick Powell

Senedd hit by power cut

Proceedings have been interrupted twice this afternoon Credit: Senedd TV

A debate in the Senedd has been halted twice by a power cut. During a debate on the NHS, the lights went out during a speech in Welsh by the Plaid Cymru health spokesperson, Elin Jones. The simultaneous translation into English was cut off and the sitting was briefly suspended. When AMs resumed their debate Conservative Angela Burns was interrupted by a second power failure. She was able to conclude her speech after a delay lasting about 15 minutes.

Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Gruffydd joked on Twitter that he'd always said the Assembly needed more power. Labour minister Leighton Andrews preferred to tweet that the Assembly had experienced a "power surge".

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