Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Plaid in deal with Labour iover council mergers.

It seems yesterdays agreement between  Plaid Cymru  and Labour allowing a bill that would help voluntary council mergers take place to become law seems to one of accepting the principle of this rather than any indication that it is going to happen.

 Plaid say this has stopped Labour from working on local government mergers before May's polls, but the Liberal Democrats scorned the deal saying it achieved literally nothing.

But a letter from Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones to Plaid leader Leanne Wood said the Welsh Government accepted that the Assembly elections in May “will provide the necessary mandate for the next Welsh Government to proceed with local government reform.”

But that would have happened anyway . Though it would be interesting to see all the Parties commitments to Council mergers. in their Manifestos given that all seem to accept that this is necessary..
Mr Jones told Ms Wood: 

“This bill when enacted will give that government the tools to begin work immediately on the model and footprints for such reform as voted for by the electorate.
“It is conceivable that such reform under a new Welsh Government may include alternative delivery models and electoral arrangements than currently envisaged.”

Which  might just point to Labour accepting STV for council elections in any coalition deal with Labour.

 Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said:

“Plaid Cymru has stopped Labour from enforcing their map for local government reorganisation through the back door before plans are put to people. Large scale changes to Local Government structures should not be decided by politicians with no mandate but should be decided by people in an election.
“The demands made by Plaid Cymru will mean that all parties can present their individual proposals in their manifestos and seek a mandate to implement them, without being bound by the current government’s preferences.
“It will allow a Plaid Cymru government to implement the changes that we want to see to the structure of Local Government, by retaining the existing 22 Local Authorities making them work together as combined regional authorities.
“Plaid Cymru has also ensured that we will have the ability to introduce proportional representation for local councils to allow for fairer voting systems like STV.
“The Party of Wales has acted in the best interests of the people of Wales, giving them the say on how they want their local councils to be elected and structured in future and halting the centralisation plans of Labour. We now seek a mandate for our proposals for localism and empowering Wales’ communities in the election to the National Assembly next May.”
Peter Black, Welsh Liberal Democrat local government spokesman, said: 

“This is humiliating stuff... Plaid have sold out, but received absolutely nothing in return.
“Their embarrassing U-turn is based on smoke and mirrors. They have achieved literally nothing. There is no commitment for a fair voting system and it was always the case that mergers were not going to happen before the Assembly election.”
Which is  a fair point but one comment by Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Local Government, Janet Finch-Saunders, maybe explains why Plaid acted as they did
“Barely 72 hours after criticising Labour, Plaid’s leader has happily cosied up and done a deal with them.
“We should have expected nothing less than this astonishing hypocrisy.
”The Local Government Bill would help put in place some of the mechanisms to facilitate voluntary council mergers – but not the measures needed for a whole-scale compulsory merger."
So does this mean the Tories would have supported compulsory mergers well apparently no earlier Ms Finch-Saunders had called for local  referendums to approve such mergers saying

“The Welsh Conservatives steadfastly oppose Labour’s forced mergers and will continue to stand up for our proud communities the length and breadth of Wales.

“As we’ve said all along, where Councils can work together, share services and save money they have the backing and support of Welsh Conservatives – but only with the consent of local people.

“Our plans would put power back in to local hands, ensuring any merger is put to residents via a referendum.

“We have long opposed Labour’s marker-pen assault on our communities. Instead of taking people with him the Minister has ploughed ahead with his unpopular plans, risking great upheaval, less localised services and an attempt to banish many of Wales’ proudest communities from the map altogether.”
So Plaid have prevented compulsory mergers which  Ms Finch-Saunders seems to oppose.

If we are going to have local  referendums who will pay for it ? It looks like a god idea but the Tories need to spell out how they will work and at what cost.

I suspect Plaid have acted to prevent the other opposition Parties doing their own deals including the idea of compulsory mergers .

 Given that the law past the final stage four hurdle in the Senedd on Tuesday, with 26 AMs voting for, 17 against and nine abstaining.

I am not sure if this was a good deal by Plaid or whether it was necessary but I wonder what backdoor deal may be have been done by the LibDems say if hadn't been made.

1 comment:

  1. it could be argued plaid had labour by the proverbials over this - they should have used this to press for local elections in wales to move from FPTP to PR. As well as breaking labour's stranglehold on local government in wales such a move would arguably transform local democracy and accountability in wales.

    As amid all this talk of council mergers etc it seems to be being overlooked that turn outs in local elections in wales are often frighteningly small - turnouts of 20 percent are not uncommon. if welsh voters knew that every vote would actually count in a local election it might well encourage more people to go out and vote!