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Friday, October 03, 2003

Taking the Assembly out to the people

A number of people raise doubts about the value of the Assembly's Regional Committees. Many see them as a talking shop with no real role in the decision making process. However, since we have made a huge effort to link in the agenda items with matters being discussed by subject committees and in particular the policy reviews, they have taken on a new significance as the eyes and ears of the Assembly. They are the natural means by which we carry out consultations. Open Mic sessions are one of the legacies of the early days but have proved to be a useful tool by which to achieve the input we need. These were started by me when I was first chair of the South West Wales Regional Committee in 1999. They have since been refined and are now integrated with the business. Thus at the meeting I chaired in St. David's today, presenters on the subject of affordable housing in rural communities were questioned by both AMs and the audience and there were a number of useful and informed contributions from the floor. North Wales has always been most successful in attracting audience members, largely due to the fact that they have little opportunity otherwise to engage with the Assembly, and their question times with the First Minister have also packed them in. I personally would like to see these repeated in every region. At the meeting in St David's today we had 80 members of the public. A sign if anything that these committees are more relevant than ever and that whatever people think about the Assembly, they still want to engage with it and they recognise its influence on every aspect of their lives.

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