Welsh Independent Councillors are extremely concerned and urge caution regarding the effect that the focus on reorganising local government boundaries could have for the residents of Wales.
Whilst accepting that some of the smaller Local Authorities may find a voluntary merger to be in the best interests of their residents – having fewer and larger authorities could weaken local democracy and accountability and have a significant effect on local services.
There are grave concerns about the lack of clarity surrounding service improvement and the estimated projected cost saving. Many figures have been quoted regarding the costs of reorganisation and the savings attributable to this Local Government Reorganisation. In a period of austerity who is going to finance this reorganisation?
Moreover, the planned reorganisation is clearly not going to happen until at least 2020. But our problems, especially in the face of what now seems likely to be several years of severe cuts to local government budgets, are with us now, not in five years time.
Are Local Authorities expected to pay for this out of their annual much reduced settlements? We would suggest that this is impossible. Big is not necessarily better.
Cllr Hugh Evans, the Leader of the WLGA Independent Group stated:
“As Independents we always strive to work in the best interests of the residents and the communities we represent. Also as Independents, we are able to work in the interests of our communities because we have no political masters or dogma to influence our decisions. Our watchword is LOCAL PEOPLE AND ISSUES BEFORE PARTY POLITICS. We will be inviting the Local Government Minister, Leslie Griffiths AM to enter into meaningful and hopefully productive talks regarding Local Government Reorganisation. Perhaps using the oft used sound bite of Local Solutions to Local Problems we should request the Welsh Government to adopt the same methodology and allow Local Authorities to at least have the opportunity of putting their own ideas into solving the problem of 22 Local Authorities in Wales.”