North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has warned the Welsh Government that if it is to go ahead with its planned council mergers it will take years before any savings are made.
Speaking in the Assembly Chamber this week, Mr Isherwood said Ministers should take note of the lessons learnt from the planned police mergers, which were suspended after it was revealed they would have generated massive deficits by 2012 of up to £120 million in Wales alone.
He said: “Last week, you quoted analysis by the Welsh Local Government Association on costs of up to £400 million with regard to the proposed mergers, but recurrent annual savings of between £92 million and £100 million. Do you not recognise that that is not immediate? Mergers take years to deliver savings and, therefore, the Welsh Government’s own cost evaluation, which has not been produced yet, and the WLGA’s independently commissioned analysis, which has not been completed yet, are required before any proposals to move forward take wing.
He added: “Only this morning, I chaired a session at a Policy Forum for Wales on older people’s care in Wales, where the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s head of business management and innovation reminded us that safe and sustainable change takes years. We must bear in mind the lessons learnt from the police merger that did not go ahead several years ago, after a sub-committee here did the work for the Home Secretary in London showing that, had it happened, contrary to expectations, it would have generated massive deficits by 2012 of up to £120 million consequent upon that merger. There would have been no savings. Why will you not take the lessons from that and delay until equivalent detailed analysis has been done, rather than pursue something that may, as happened then, have to be suspended if the figures do not add up?”
The Minister for Local Government, Lesley Griffiths AM, replied: “We all accept that change is inevitable if our public services are to become more efficient, effective and accessible. I do not think that the people of Wales would be very happy to wait years and years as the Member suggests.”
Mr Isherwood added: “I was a member of the sub-committee which produced the evidence that led to the suspension of police mergers, but this Welsh Government doesn’t want to know as it builds its policy houses on sand.”