Friday, 1 March 2013
Plaid Cymru are in Beaumaris for their spring conference. In a leisure centre. A leisure centre that is shortly to become a social enterprise. It’s to be a social enterprise because the local authority can’t afford to keep it going. So the residents of the historic town are going to take it over.
Now Plaid Cymru are here because the only elections in Wales this year are in Anglesey. Plaid are trying very hard to win control of the council from the shambles of various permutations of independent control.
It’s an year later than everywhere else in Wales. Why? Because Anglesey Councillors had been very badly behaved. So much so, that Local Government Minister Carl Sergeant had to put his own hit team of outsiders in, to sort things out.
Now the Welsh Government have intervened in many an authority to sort problems out. Social services here, education there. The latest intervention is in Merthyr. Here the intervention is to sort out education. Intervention after intervention, basically because local government is not up to speed. So what’s to be done?
The current structure of local government is one that was imposed on Wales by the pre-1997 Tory government. Indeed it was a legacy of John Redwood’s rule in Wales. It was opposed by Labour at the time. Many thought that the scrapping of large county councils at the time was a big and costly mistake. The new authorities were thought to be far to small to administer social services and education. Subsequent government interventions have proved the critics of the time to be right.
The Welsh Government have been encouraging authorities to make joint appointments, some even have. But a hell of a lot have only paid lip service to the Assembly and carried on with complete disregard to Carl Sergeant’s wishes.
But Sergeant is not to be trifled with. Expect a major announcement soon. What could it be? Well both he and Leighton Andrews the education minister have been making threatening noises about local government. They both think they’re not fit for purpose.
Indeed not to put to fine a point on it, there is a mutual loathing between Welsh government and local government. Relation are at rock bottom.
The only way forward would seem to be a major reorganisation of local government. Is this likely to be the next major announcement from Carwyn Jones’s government?
How ironic that Plaid Cymru come to Anglesey to push for a Plaid Cymru controlled Anglesey. Now will there be an Anglesey council if Messrs Sergeant and Andrews get their collective way. Me thinks not.