Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Unfulfilled expectations

The more time passes, the more the local government non-reorganisation proposed by the Williams Commission appears to be dead in the water.  The all-party consensus which Carwyn Jones hoped for evaporated before it formed, and the arbitrary “decide by Easter or else” deadline has been shown to be just that, entirely arbitrary.
The First Minister must be wondering how on earth this has happened.  After all, he included representatives of all four parties on the commission and must have expected that their, apparently unanimous, conclusions would be rubber-stamped by their parties.  Was that expectation really so unreasonable?
It seems to me that there are two factors which come into play here.  The first is the extent to which the party representatives were chosen by their parties rather than selected by the First Minister, and the second is the extent to which they kept in touch with their respective parties during the commission’s deliberations.
On the first it was never entirely clear.  It’s part of the way of doing things in the UK – and another of those habits which the Assembly seems only too keen to ape – that appointment processes for such commissions are anything but transparent.  Whether the individuals were nominated “through the usual channels” by their party leaders, or arbitrarily selected by the First Minister is obscure to say the least.  But even if we assume the worst case, that he alone made the decision without consultation, he must surely have expected that in choosing an ex-leader of one-party, an ex-special adviser to the leader of another when in government, and an ex-director of policy for the third, he was choosing people who would, at the very least, have a good “feel” for the likely response of their parties.  That strikes me as a not entirely unreasonable starting point.
On the second, it is hard to believe that the party representatives would have come out so unanimously for their proposals if they had any inkling of the likely reaction from their parties.  One can only conclude that communication has been minimal.  I suppose that the Lib Dems can, almost, be forgiven – it seems that “their” man left the party during the process.  But I’m not sure what excuse the other two can offer.  The whole “all-party” exercise ends up looking like a charade.
For whatever reason, the First Minister’s reasonable expectation has not been realised.  He must surely be left wondering what was the point of the exercise, and where he went so wrong.


Anonymous said...

I think the First Minister pretty much realised a BIG mistake had been made when it was suggested to him that Council Taxes might have to rise to pay for this re-organisation.

Whatever the end result, local taxation in Wales has to fall dramatically in real terms.

Anonymous said...

I think in your post you cover where he went wrong. He could have "tied" the parties in by having a cross-party commission where each party nominated a representative. Not because the representatives would be different people, but there would then be a formal link and party rank-and-file members and local govt people (in Labour especially) would see it as more of a collaborative vehicle. The FM hasn't done particularly well on this commission.

Anonymous said...

Council tax isn't the issue. Overall levels will go up if there is no reorganisation, because of the cuts. Local authorities need more money to save services.

Council tax wouldn't rise to pay for reorganisation. Council tax is local and doesn't go to Welsh Government. Reorganisation would have to be paid for out of the block grant, not by councils.

The problem is the First Minister hasn't secured cross-party buy in or done a deal with anyone. Alex Salmond ran a minority government and was able to get cover for most policies. The only thing he couldn't really get through was local income tax if I remember correctly.