North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has slammed Welsh Government plans to merge councils in Wales, stating that “Big is not always more beautiful, cost-effective or efficient”.
A statement earlier this week by the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services on ‘Local Government’, resurrected Welsh Government plans that could see Wales' 22 councils merged to as few as 10.
The proposals are Isle of Anglesey & Gwynedd; Conwy & Denbighshire; Flintshire & Wrexham; Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire & Carmarthenshire; Swansea & Neath Port Talbot; Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf & Merthyr Tydfil; Vale of Glamorgan & Cardiff; Newport & Caerphilly; Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent & Monmouthshire.
Responding to the Statement in the Chamber, Mr Isherwood (pictured), said: “Well, we've heard much of your general thrust, including your acknowledgement that we need devolution of powers within Wales, which is precisely what the North Wales Economic Ambition Board is calling for in its Growth Bid. Could I suggest that an alternative model might be the collaborative regional approach developed in North Wales by the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, working together on strategy, prioritisation and, increasingly in the future, delivery, where we know the evidence from mergers in all the sectors is that big is not always more beautiful, cost-effective or efficient?”
Speaking outside the Chamber, Mr Isherwood added: “Last time they tried this, I was a member of the Assembly Committee which scrutinised what they were up to. The evidence we received showed that they were ignoring the analysis which local authorities must undertake to show that the benefits outweigh the costs before committing to any expenditure alone or with other authorities.
“It is scandalous that the Welsh Government considers that such financial discipline with public money should not apply to itself. As the Welsh Local Government Association said “this announcement has caused disquiet and confusion” and “the proposals are yet to be fully costed and most academic analysis concludes that such reform programmes rarely deliver the savings or changes in performance that were hoped."