Helping you understand Welsh law

What is devolved?

Devolution of legislative power

The legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales is set out in the Government of Wales Act 2006 (GOWA 2006). In relation to local government, it can pass laws in relation to the following subjects:

  • Constitution, structure and areas of local authorities
  • Electoral arrangements for local authorities
  • Powers and duties of local authorities and their members and officers
  • Local government finance

'Local authorities' does not include Police and Crime Commissioners.

However, certain matters are excepted from the National Assembly’s legislative competence and they include:

  • Local government franchise
  • Electoral registration and administration
  • Registration of births, marriages, civil partnerships and deaths
  • Licensing of sale and supply of alcohol, provision of entertainment and late night refreshments 
  • Anti-social behaviour orders
  • Local land charges, apart from fees
  • Sunday trading
  • Provision of advice and assistance overseas by local authorities in connection with the carrying on there of local government activities

Between 2007 and 2011, the National Assembly could legislate by Measure where the specific power to legislate on a topic was conferred by Order in Council made under GOWA 2006 (known as Legislative Competence Orders or 'LCOs'). Two Assembly Measures relating to local government were made and are still in force; the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 and the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011.

In addition to the Acts of Parliament that make provision relating to the structure of local government in Wales, there are numerous Acts that impose duties or confer functions on local authorities. There are also powers to make orders, rules and regulations relating to local government under these enactments. Certain matters are often left to be prescribed by order or regulations.

Devolution of executive power

The Government of Wales Act 1998 (GOWA 1998) provided for the transfer of functions from UK Government Ministers to the National Assembly for Wales. Under GOWA 2006, those functions were transferred from the National Assembly for Wales to the Welsh Ministers. The Welsh Ministers now exercise the majority of the executive and subordinate legislative powers in relation to local government whether those powers are conferred by an Assembly Act or an Act of the UK Parliament.

As the result of the transfer of functions, statutes that were enacted prior to the commencement of GOWA 2006 (in May 2007) should be read with care. References to 'the Secretary of State' will in most, but not all, cases now mean 'the Welsh Ministers' in their application in relation to Wales. Where functions were conferred expressly on the National Assembly for Wales in Acts of the UK Parliament between 1999 and 2007, the functions should also be read as being exercisable by 'the Welsh Ministers'.

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