Tuesday 29 June 2010

22 of everything

The subject of local government reform is raising its head again, as financial tightening starts to hit local government. The Local Government Minister is quoted as saying that he can't see why we need 22 of everything, and I agree with him in principle. (Although in the case of one of his examples, I'm not sure that reducing 22 fleets of vehicles to a smaller number of larger fleets necessarily results in fewer vehicles overall. And even if it did lead to fewer vehicles, if they had to travel a significant extra distance to cover larger areas, the cost saving may turn out to somewhat illusory.)

What concerns me however, is the suggestion that we rush straight from 22 into some other number, and do so in a higgledy-piggledy manner with arbitrary cross-border service mergers based on joint filling of senior vacancies, and without giving any real thought to what the 'right' number is.

For political reasons which I can understand (to say nothing of the potential cost implications in the short term), the Welsh Government has fought shy of taking a thorough look at local government boundaries and functions. I think they're as wrong to avoid taking that big picture look as they are to try and rush into opportunistic changes. We're also not looking at what can and should be democratically accountable at a local level and which services might be better delivered nationally.

In the 2007 Assembly elections, I (and every other Plaid candidate) fought on the basis of a manifesto which called for a thorough review of the whole way in which Wales is governed – local government, health, etc. It's one of our promises which didn't get into the One Wales coalition agreement, more's the pity. Instead of a thorough review, we've had a piecemeal approach which delivers neither radical change nor stability.

Sooner or later, we need to face up to the question rather than continue to avoid it.


Anonymous said...

Local Government and Health reorganizations are always going to be limited because of the power of the Trade Unions in both sectors in Wales.

The boat wont be rocked because Labour need the Unions money and Plaid can't afford to alienate potential voters that's why WAG has done nothing about the way Wales is governed, no other reasons John.

John Dixon said...

Perhaps, but I'm generally in favour of rocking boats. Unrocked boats are boring!