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National review highlights opportunities to strengthen governance arrangements across Wales' National Park Authorities.

25 April 2024
  • Limited accountability and inconsistencies in how elected members are nominated risks undermining good governance

    Although National Park Authorities have a clear framework to help discharge their key functions, there are opportunities to strengthen governance arrangements.

    National Park Authorities (NPAs) are charged with conserving some of Wales’ most important cultural heritage and environmental habitats. They also play a key role in our nation’s response to the climate emergency. Yet like many public bodies, NPAs in Wales have faced reducing budgets over the last 15 years. Coupled with rising demand, the pressures faced by NPAs highlight the importance of good governance and value for money.

    Our report considers the governance model for NPAs and how it is implemented. Each of the three NPAs in Wales is made up of 18 members. Two thirds are nominated from the relevant unitary authorities and one third of the members are appointed by Welsh Government. Our report highlights opportunities to better reflect the specialist nature of NPAs’ work in the way that elected members are selected and supported to carry out their work.

    Our report also found uncertainty over the extent to which members are held accountable for their contribution to the governance of NPAs. There are formal arrangements established to oversee their conduct, however, there are limited arrangements in place to evaluate members’ contributions. This means that despite being a remunerated role, NPAs cannot demonstrate the value for money provided through members’ contributions.

    The report raises questions as to the suitability of NPAs’ governance model and calls on Welsh Government to consider this in the context and timescales of its commitment to designate a new national park in Wales. The model is designed to combine democratic accountability with strategic expertise and national perspectives, but weaknesses in its implementation mean that the strengths of the model ‘on paper’ do not always apply in practice.

    Our report also outlines recommendations for NPAs and Welsh Government within four key areas:

    • Supporting members to carry out their role
    • Ensuring member nominations support good governance
    • Improving accountability arrangements for members
    • Reviewing whether the model is delivering what was intended
    National Park Authorities in Wales may be small bodies, but they play a key role in conserving the environment and implementing the Well-being of Future Generations Act. The increasingly challenging financial situation facing public bodies makes it even more important that National Park Authorities have good governance arrangements in place to help them achieve value for money. Adrian Crompton, Auditor General

    Related Report

    Governance of National Park Authorities

    View more