North Wales Councillors of all political parties are “very concerned” about and “opposed” to the Welsh Government’s proposed local authority mergers, North Wales Assembly Member and Shadow Local Government Minister Mark Isherwood told the Local Government Minister, Lesley Griffiths AM, this week.
Responding to the Minister’s Statement on the Welsh Government Response to the Williams Commission Report, Mr Isherwood referred to his recent discussions with North Wales Councillors and criticised the Welsh Government for not properly engaging with Councillors of all political parties over the proposals.
Speaking in the Chamber he said:
“You told the Welsh Local Government Association conference on 19 June that you wanted local government to be the architect of change as reform and mergers got under way, but the WLGA Leader and Torfaen Council Leader, Councillor Bob Wellington, said that local government had expected to be involved in the debate but that the dialogue had not materialised.
“Councillor Dyfed Edwards, Leader of Gwynedd Council, said that the Minister had taken a stand-off approach and that there was a grand canyon between local government and the Welsh Government with regard to the response to the Williams Commission Report, and clearly, in this context, we are talking about the local government element of that.
“Councillor Wellington added that he acknowledged that local government must change, but the reform process should be based on a true consideration of the functions and role that local councils should fulfil, rather than the structures that are required to support this.
“Last weekend, I met and discussed these issues with councillors of all parties, very much including your own, in north Wales. They were all very concerned and were all opposed to the proposals as they are currently understood. How would you respond to concerns raised with me by council leaders and chief executives in our region that they have no interest in being a part of a voluntary merger, because that would take a lot of resources for little gain, unless they were sure that this was going to be the outcome required of them ultimately?”
Mr Isherwood added: “The lessons of the 1996 Local Government reorganisation, of the cancelled police mergers a few years ago and of mergers more generally is that they cost a lot of money and that even if they are eventually successful, they take years to generate savings.
“At a time when Local Government is already facing deep cuts, it is irresponsible to move ahead with a merger agenda which would impose huge additional costs upon them.”