The publication of yesterday’s statement by the First Minister, and the subsequent long overdue White Paper “Reforming Local Government”, sees the formal Welsh Government response to the Williams report previously published on 20th January 2014.
On March 28th 2014 the 22 leaders met and agreed the following resolution to take the debate forward:
“The WLGA has always supported the need for consistent improvement in the delivery and performance of all public services in Wales, including local government. In its response to the Williams Commission it accepted, and welcomed the case for a review of the role of local government in the delivery of Welsh public services”
Since the report’s publication the WLGA has consistently sought to fully engage with the Welsh Government on determining a way forward for the future of local councils. Following today’s debate the WLGA now call for proper engagement and a new and open dialogue on the way forward.
Today’s announcements provide detail in some areas, but fundamental questions remain about the future of local democracy in Wales.
- What is the Welsh Government’s vision for local democracy in the 21st Century?
- How do these proposals significantly develop those already contained in the Williams report published six months ago?
- How are the up front costs of local government reorganisation going to be met in an era of huge budget cuts?
- What will be the Government’s proposal to equalise council tax rates/rises in areas subject to mergers where it will rise dramatically?
- How will a reorganisation occurring as late as 2020 assist councils with budget cuts over the next three years?
- What criteria will be in place to allow proposed mergers to cross more than one health authority boundary?
- What powers or functions is the Welsh Government considering devolving to the new authorities?
Cllr Bob Wellington CBE, Leader of the WLGA said:
“The First Minister’s announcement and the Local Government White Paper still leaves many questions unanswered and many unknowns for local government in Wales. With the leaders of the 22 authorities, I intend to meet with the First Minister at the earliest opportunity to discuss the way forward on these many important issues.”