Thursday, 1 September 2011

A rose by any other....

The Welsh Government in July took the decision that could fundamentally change the nature of our democracy. The decision was taken under the innocuous title Public Service reform: Promoting Regional Coherence but what it proposes changes fundamentally the way councils deliver services.

What they are proposing are six regional bodies that will deliver some of the major services that are currently delivered by local councils. The services that eventually are delivered will be education, social services and some aspects of environment and sustainable development.

In the report that went to cabinet Carl Sergeant was critical of the current local government model. Although acknowledging that they are democratic and “close to their communities.” He saw these in a negative light. “This creates challenges in relation to patchy performance leadership, critical mass, specialist expertise and efficiency.”

The Cabinet have now endorsed Sergeant’s views and see new regional bodies as the way forward.

What is being proposed, however, is local government reorganisation by the back door without the hassle of formal consultation and without involving the electorate that pay for these services in their Council tax.

The then Labour Opposition were highly critical of the current structure of local government when it was proposed by the Conservative government of the time.

The thrust of their criticism was that scrapping the then eight large county councils would make it difficult to deliver some services such as education and social services.

That criticism has certainly been proven right with a number of highly critical reports into the failure by some of the current local councils in delivering these services.

One can understand the impatience of Welsh Government with the current local government structure. But to reorganise by stealth is not the way forward. A coherent set of proposals need to be produced and the public need to be involved in deciding how services should be delivered in the future.

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