Radical shake up of Welsh councils labelled ‘a shambles’
Flintshire County council is set to merge with neighbours Wrexham and Denbighshire if proposals published today by public service minister Leighton Andrews go ahead.
The plan, which in fine tradition had been leaked to pretty much every Cardiff based media organisation, has been hit by a storm of criticism on social media, non more vocal than our own Deputy Council Leader Bernie Attridge who tweeted:
Final nail in the coffin for LOCAL gov, @welshlabour will soon be in the wilderness for a generation, time for change at the top!!
— bernie attridge (@bernieatto) June 17, 2015
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Local Government, Janet Finch-Saunders AM, called the whole process a shambles, she said:
“This Labour-led process has been a shambles from start to finish.
“Councils should not be forced to merge. It won’t work and it’s a one-way ticket to disaster.
“This lame excuse for reform will see us jump back in time to a structure long confined to the history books. That sums up Labour’s empty tank of ideas and imagination. All this does is serve their own narrow political self-interest.
“Any change in council structure should be led locally. If communities want it – and if councils can prove they can boost efficiency with a merger – no-one should stand in their way.
“This should be about local empowerment – not Labour oppression.”
Leader of Wrexham Council Mark Pritchard estimates the cost of mergers could hit £400m and fears many jobs in Wales will be lost while the money should be spent on frontline services.
Mr Andrew’s kicked off the morning of with a tweet- the link on the tweet takes you a story about today’s premier league football fixture release:
Really looking forward to the announcement this morning. To see why, click here http://t.co/thK9MPn98M
— Leighton Andrews 🏴🇪🇺 (@LeightonAndrews) June 17, 2015
The tweet drew a few comment in reply @Tough_Luxe said:
“I’m glad he finds the whole thing so amusing! There’s a lot of very anxious ppl out there today, who will be losing their jobs. Communities losing their voice. Councils facing turmoil. Hilarious!”
The proposals set out in the plan suggest a configuration of eight or nine Local Authorities, with two options for the structure of authorities in North Wales.
Mr Andrews would like to see just two councils in north Wales merging Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire and Gwynedd, Ynys Mon, Conwy, although there could be further consultation on merging Conwy and Denbighshire to create an additional council in north Wales.
The Minister said:
“The case for fewer local authorities in Wales is compelling and widely accepted. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity to reform and reshape our councils to drive funding into improving frontline services. We will drive down the cost of politics and administration in local government.”
“This announcement provides further clarity on the future configuration of local authorities in Wales. It sets out our preference for the future structure in South, Mid and West Wales while facilitating further discussion around North Wales. The case in North Wales is finely balanced between two or three Local Authorities. We therefore feel that there is a case for a further debate and would welcome views.”
“I want to emphasise this is not a final decision. It is the next phase in our public debate. Following that, we will publish and consult on a draft ‘Mergers and Reform’ Bill in the autumn. This will include further, formal consultation on our proposals for local authority mergers and include a Regulatory Impact Assessment.
“The current structure is failing to deliver quality services across Wales, with education services still in special measures in several authorities in Wales. Some authorities are simply too small to survive. The current system is costing council tax-payers millions on duplicated administrative services – as KPMG said last week, £151 million a year could be saved if all councils were as efficient as the best. We cannot go on as we are.”
The Minister also announced that he will not proceed with some of the proposals in the ‘Reforming Local Government’ plans – He is scrapping plans to limit terms for Elected Members.
In addition, the current cap of 75 elected members per Authority will be removed due to the move towards fewer, larger councils. The removal of this limit will avoid councillors representing an unreasonably large number of electors.
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