Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A new governance for Wales?

Agreement amongst politicians. Unusual, yes but all three opposition parties agree that local councils are not fit for purpose. It’s probably a view shared by the Welsh Government. We await with interest their announcement on the matter.

But despite the Opposition parties agreeing than there is something wrong in the state of local government in Wales. They’re not singing from the same song sheet as to what’s to be done.

Plaid Cymru want to set up a Commission to look at Local Government reorganisation. But in calling for such a Commission it would seem that one option that Alun Ffred Jones rules out is one local authority covering the whole of North Wales. Not on, according to Alun Ffred.

Andrew RT Davies, Conservative and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly doesn’t want any delay and rules out a Commission. He’s adamant government ought to set out their proposals post haste. He wants the government to set out  the “future map and direction” of local government.  No prevarication, just let the minister get on with it. 

But he went on to say “few back the continuation of 22 councils.” So there we have it the Conservative Leader is turning his back on the reorganisation John Redwood imposed on Wales.

Liberal Democrats want to have a proper debate about local government reorganisation the government should “man up” to the changes they’ve imposed. They  accuse the Welsh government of reorganising by stealth. Pushing an education department here into the hands of an education department there. Although reorganisation was disruptive, the austerity faced by councils made a new system necessary sooner rather than later.

So there we have it, all Opposition parties saying local councils are no longer fit for purpose.

Its up to government now. Let them come up with their proposals sooner rather than later. The drift that’s being experienced at the moment doesn’t help deliver decent services. Especially at a time  when the financial shoe is pinching all councils. 

Welsh Government certainly has the power to bully local government to carry out its wishes. And within the last few years it certainly hasn’t been slow to read the riot act to councils the length and breadth of Wales. That’s why relations between central and local government are at an all time low. 

The sooner that a fresh start is made the better. Let’s have a rational look at how Wales is governed. Local government has never been re-organised since we’ve had devolved government in Cardiff. Its certainly well over due. The inhabitants of Wales deserve better governance both locally and nationally.  

Lets get a bit of coherence. So produce your plans now, Sergeant.


  1. Let's not forget that, although the end product might be an improvement, the process of major change - the time it takes to lead up to it and then bed it down afterwards - is a massive waste of time and resources. Basically, nothing would happen in local government for 3-4 years. Better to let things develop slowly and organically, without all the disruption?

  2. Wales is such a small country in terms of population one has to wonder why so much time and energy is expended on pondering its future.

    And one has to wonder who keeps on paying for such time and energy.

    Isn't it time Wales was condemned to the dustbin and its people allowed to chose a more productive path to prosperity.

  3. If the Local Democracy Bill is passed unamended it is a charter to allow the Welsh Government to gerrymander to their hearts consent. The Yanks passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to enhance voting influence and reduce dilution, Carl Sargeant is going the other way. George Wallace and the other Southern demagogues would be proud of the Welsh Government's attempts to solidify a permanent Labour majority in Wales.

  4. Anon...what is that productive path to prosperity? A continuation of the status quo of the last 80 odd years of British Labour domination that has created a dependancy culture which is nowhard to break. A new path to prosperity is one that leads t self determination or don't you have the self confidence or self esteem for that great step forwards.

  5. Anonymous:
    "Wales is such a small country in terms of population one has to wonder why so much time and energy is expended on pondering its future."

    It's called living in a participatory democracy. Some of us like it.

  6. Poor John Redwood. The Act went throught under David Hunt. It's easy to blame the Tories for the mess that we now have for local government. In fact all parties were to blame because the last thing that they were interested in was local government. The name of the game for the MPs involved was to please the folks in the local constituency party. Read handsdard for the speech by Carlisle that Montgomeryshire should be a unitary authority. Classic nonsense. Hunt wanted to destroy the Labour controlled county councils but after that he really was only interested in the four 'cities' Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and Wrexham. Labour could have prodcued an alternative but given the personal animosity between the Labour controlled district and county councils this was impossible. I wouldn't bore you with an acount of the first meeting of the shadow Labour group on the WLGA on an afternoon in a hotel outside Builth. The atmosphere inside the meeting was as electric as the thunder storm which raged outside! It doesn't gives me any pleasure to point out that those of us who argued in the early 1990s that it would be a disaster have been proved to be right. Collaboration is not the answer I'm afraid and anyone who believes it is isn't living in the real world. We really need a debate in Wales on the very issue of what do we actually mean by local government. Should local government be accountable for edcuation, for example, when in reality the main expoenditure item for any locla authority is very rarely discussed. Most councillors don't have a clue about the state of either their local school or the edcuation department until the damning Estyn report comes along. In my former authority the Leader couldn't even be bothered to turn up for the feedback and only 10 governors bothered to meet the Estyn inspectors despite an open invite for all schools. Even then the reaction to an adequate report has been one of Estyn has got it wrong!.Will we have such a debate? That will require leadership and vision. Something that isn't really found in abundance in post devolution Wales I'm afraid.