Thursday, 17 December 2015

Reform our Councils to be more efficent not just to save costs.

The Wasting Mules reports that

 "A leading expert on local government has blasted plans to cut Wales’ 22 councils to eight or nine.Professor Colin Copus, director of the Local Governance Research Unit at De Montfort University, has attacked arguments that bigger councils will prove more efficient and warned it could damage the communities they are supposed to serve.In an article for the Gorwel think tank, Prof Copus strongly criticises the treatment of local government in the devolution era and regrets a “centralising tendency”. 

He writes:

“As with most local government reform, the most depressing element of the situation in Wales is the stubborn, folklore like attachment to the perceived benefits of big local government which is consistently displayed by policy-makers.”

 “What that means is that as local government gets less and less local, trust in councillors and officers declines and that community engagement and cohesion deteriorates

 Hr continises
“Increases in size mean a cull of councillors and those remaining must cover larger areas, look after the interests of more citizens, care and respond to the individual problems of more and more constituents and struggle to oversee massive budgets as well as monitor and hold to account the activities of large bureaucratic organisations spending public money. They must do all that while not full-time salaried politicians in the same way as Assembly Members and Members of Parliament.”
 He laments an “obsession with super-sizing councils” and claims the “sad fact is that policy-makers seem wedded to increasing the size of Welsh local government and they do that because when developing solutions to contemporary problems, what often occurs is not the search for evidence-based policy, but policy-based evidence”.

Meanwhile the BBC reports claims that the whole process is preventing Councils from taking action to reform their structures now.

Debates on whether or not to merge councils have been a distraction from deciding how services should be run, the public spending watchdog has said.
Auditor General Huw Vaughan Thomas told BBC Wales English councils were "re-designing themselves" and Welsh councils needed to do the same.
Ministers want to reduce the number of councils from 22 to eight or nine, after the May 2016 assembly election.
Mr Thomas said services needed more radical change to cope with cuts.
Five years into the longest period of sustained spending reductions since World War Two, he said public services needed to be reformed, but that had been "overshadowed" by local government reorganisation.
The Welsh government's council merger plans have had a hostile reception from political opponents and some Labour council leaders.
"There has been a lot of debate about the nature of services, but it has been overshadowed by what kind of structure of local government we want," Mr Thomas said.
"What's more important for people is not necessarily what council is there, but the services they are providing, it's certainly been a distraction.
"It's affected, I think, the ability of some councils to think beyond four or five year horizons. They need to think much longer term."
He said councils in England were "redesigning themselves" and "we need to be doing the same in Wales".
"But there's almost a desire to do as little change as is needed," Mr Thomas said.

I an not convinced that Bigger Councils are the answer and would prefer a Tier of Government based on maybe the Police Authorities to deal with the Police,Fire ,Ambulance and possibly Social services with about 20 full time elected "Super Councillors" to deal with them.

Part of the cost could be saved by abolshing the Police abd Crimes Commissioner for instance,

The rest of the Councils could remain the same . Some like Gwynedd and Powys could revert to their old boundaries like like Merioneth and Brecon.

Surely this would e better than having Councilor driving for hours in order to get to a Council meeting to discus a topic that only affects his or her part of the new County?

And ordinary people will be denied the chance to make their views directly to their council.

The issue should not be how cheaply we can deliver local Government but how efficient .


  1. As you know I am very much in favour of a two tier solution, we have too many nominated bodies and quangos running services that were once under direct democratic control, I would go with 3 city regions, Cardiff (East Glamorgan), Newport (Gwent) and Swansea (Swansea Bay - Swansea, Llanelli, Neath, Port Talbot) and two Rural Regions, The North (Gwynedd, Clwyd & Montgomery), Deheubarth (Brecon & Radnor, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire) running Health, Social Services, Police, Ambulance, Waste Disposal/Recycling, Transport, Infrastructure and Education. Leaving a tier of about 25 local authorities based on the current counties running waste collection, housing, licensing, leisure services, libraries. And at the lowest level about 250 community councils looking after hyper local facilities - all elected by STV.

    1. Yes once again we seem to be in agreement . What I find frustrating is not so much that any Political Party in Wales agrees with us they may well have god arguments against such an idea.

      But there seems to be no alternative Plan for Welsh Local government either than Leighton Andrews Big Councils idea. We have an election coming up surely some leading Politician in Wales has some vision of an alternative that is more palatable and leads to more Democratic and efficient local government.

  2. Well Plaid is suggesting combined authorities to take over some of the functions that I suggest the new regions should have, but there doesn't seem to be a political will to go through with it. The problem is that people will see it as more councillors, while in truth it would probably reduce the number of councillors overall, as well as introduce real democracy. Plus as has been suggested over at Oggy Bloggy Ogwr that over time the regions could have some secondary law making power devolved from the National Assembly - real decentralisation.