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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

County says there's "no case" for council shake-up

Denbighshire County Council says it doesn't believe that a "credible case" exists for local government reorganisation in Wales.

The matter was raised at a full council meeting at County Hall (pictured) yesterday (Monday). 

The official response agreed by councillors says: "Denbighshire County Council does not believe that a credible case for change has been made in the Green Paper Consultation Document.

“Denbighshire’s consistently high standard of service delivery demonstrates that it is delivering to residents and other service users.

"The council is also actively engaged in existing and developing regional and sub-regional collaborations.
"Some collaborations, for example, the school effectiveness and improvement service for North Wales (GwE), are providing excellent services across the region.
"Local authority joint committees are not a suitable vehicle for some other regional collaborations and this would remain true after a local government reorganisation.
"Legislative provisions to enable existing or future local authorities and their partners to successfully collaborate are needed."
The response adds: "The transition process would inevitably become a central focus for all local authorities in the lead up to the mergers. This would undermine their ability to deliver services to their residents and other service users over a number of years even if the transition period and mergers were fully funded and allowed an appropriate timescale in which to take place.
"The council disagrees with the Green Paper’s timescales relating to having new merged authorities from April 2022; the work involved over so short a timescale would be too disruptive to services and could not be adequately supported alongside a programme of managing budget reductions.
“The effects of austerity are well-noted and although a combined Denbighshire and Conwy could potentially achieve some savings in management, support services and elected member costs, there would likely be a weakening of links between local communities, their elected representatives and decision making.
"It must be noted that the public are not expressing any desire for local government reorganisation. Most local authority spend is targeted at services such as education and social care which are unlikely to produce significant cost savings as a result of having larger merged authorities. M
"Many other services from waste collection and recycling to leisure facilities will not see obvious opportunities for savings that cannot be delivered by the existing local authorities either by themselves or through collaborative efforts.
“The experience of the last local government reorganisation indicates that the new merged authorities would face serious challenges especially during their first few years, but potentially for an even longer period. The reduced service provision over this extended period is not in the interests of our service users or local democracy and accountability.
“It is noted that no question was asked, or view expressly sought, as to the case for change. It is therefore to be assumed that Government has decided to pursue a policy of merger and is seeking views solely as to the process by which this is to be achieved. The response to the consultation questions is framed on this basis."

* The Welsh Government’s attempt at reforming local authorities is a waste of time and money, say Plaid Cymru councillors in Denbighshire.

Their group leader, Cllr Arwel Roberts, said: “The Labour Government is trying to force county councils to merge against the will of the people and local democratic opinion.

“Four years ago, when mergers were being considered, Denbighshire Council and Conwy Council spent precious time and money to come up with a plan that brought both authorities together.

"However, the same Labour Government rejected that offer and abandoned its merger plans. Now it’s got the cheek to ask councils to do the same thing all over again, only this time it’s threatening to force a merger on councils if we don’t agree. It’s a waste of the council’s limited resources and frankly insulting."

Plaid Cymru also warned community and town councils to be ready for a Welsh Government diktat forcing the merger of those smaller councils, which would result in communities losing their identities.

Cllr Roberts said: “The Welsh Government has made things extremely difficult for town and community councils with new rules around employing clerks and payments to councillors. Some of our smaller councils are at their wits’ end and are struggling to keep up with the new requirements.

"They’re telling us that they’re concerned that the Welsh Government has an agenda to force their mergers, which would result in many communities losing their identity and democratic voice. The Welsh Government needs to come clean about its plans for our town and community councils.”

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