Isherwood: Welsh Local Government Minister in Vacuum over Public Service Reform

Mark Isherwood

Mark Isherwood

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has accused the Welsh Government of being in a vacuum as it pushes ahead with its plans for Public Service reform.

Speaking in the Assembly Chamber, Mr Isherwood questioned Local Government Minister, Lesley Griffiths AM, over the details of public service collaboration in North Wales and of co-production of public services.

He said: “When I asked you last week what would happen if local authorities proposed mergers that did not fit the Welsh Government’s preferred map, or merged departments between local authorities where those two authorities did not fit the Welsh Government’s preferred map, you said that you would consider proposals that came forward with worked up alternatives. However, will that also apply to mergers between specific departments within local authorities that do not fit the preferred map, such as the merger between Flintshire’s and Denbighshire’s procurement units into a joint procurement unit?”

The Minister replied: “Well, I had hoped that I had reassured the Member when he asked me in Committee about this that we are not going to stop collaboration.”

Mr Isherwood commented: “This Minister is still avoiding complexity and failing to consider what would happen if, for example, Flintshire and Wrexham were forced to merge, when Denbighshire and Flintshire have merged departments in the meantime.”

Questioning the Minister about Co-production, he said “Last week, when I asked to what extent you realised that co-production means a complete revolution in the way that things are done, you replied  ‘It is not a completely new way of working’ and asked her:

“What dialogue have you had, or will you consider having, with Co-production Wales, which told me that it is not just a nice add-on, but a new way of operating for the Government, as well as public service professionals, and citizens themselves? Colleagues in Western Australia, who sent their Mental Health Commissioner to speak at a conference in Cardiff on co-production last December, advised Wales that we have to decide whether we are adding on a programme or are reforming the system”.

Rather than taking responsibility, the Minister replied “I am very happy to have discussions with them, if they wish”.

The Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery established by the First Minister  identifies scope “to enhance the involvement of citizens and communities” which “embraces co-production of service design, commissioning and delivery”.

As Co-production Wales (All in this Together) states “Our mission is to transform Wales into a society that places co-production principles at the heart of its public services, its communities, and the lives of its citizens. Our aim is social justice, and the permanent shift of power from state to citizens. Nothing less.”

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