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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Isherwood questions council merger plans

Questioning the First Minister in the Assembly this week over plans to merge councils in Wales, North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood highlighted the concerns of local authorities in North Wales.
The Williams Commission proposes merging local authorities to reduce numbers from 22 to between 10 and 12, but Mr Isherwood stressed to Carwyn Jones in the Assembly Chamber yesterday that councils in North Wales fear this would weaken accountability.
Speaking in the chamber he said: “You may be aware that the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee recently completed an inquiry into progress on local government collaboration.
"How do you respond to the evidence to that inquiry from Conwy council, on behalf of north Wales councils, that working across organisational and geographic boundaries could bring complexity and ambiguity that could generate confusion and weaken accountability, paralleled by Cardiff Business School, which said ‘there is no simple answer to the local government sized conundrum because you have hundreds of different cost curves, all behaving differently.
"Whereas, for one service, the right scale may be regional or even across Wales, another may well be best delivered at an incredibly local level’”.
The First Minister replied: “What the Williams Commission identifies is a need for change now and it identifies a need for change in order to benefit the public. It also identifies the problems that have arisen due to the lack of collaboration between many local authorities in Wales.”
Mr Isherwood added: “To embark on a reorganisation at a time when Local Government is enmeshed in driving through significant financial savings is fraught with hazard, with the Welsh Local Government Association saying that the cost of merging councils in Wales could cost £200 million, double the Williams Commission estimate.
"All precedent in both the public and private sector indicates that even if mergers eventually prove effective, it takes a minimum 5 – 10 years to cover the merger costs and deliver the integrated systems required. Rather than freeing funds for service delivery, this threatens to reduce them even further.”

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