Re-org local government? I wouldn't start from here
- 19 April 2013
- From the section Wales politics
"Re-org is not where I want to be".
Who said it? The then Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant.
About what? Local government reorganisation.
When? Back in 2010, when everyone else was talking about the Ryder Cup, Mr Sargeant was heading off on a summer tour meet local public sector workers, taking with him a statement he'd called "Your Services, Your Say" but that back then, some re-christened "My Money, My Way".
Why? This is how I put it back then:
"For what he announced was nothing less that a complete re-evaluation of how local services are delivered in Wales: an independent inquiry, to report before Christmas, which will look at all functions carried out by councils in Wales and decide whether they could be better carried out at a regional or even national level.
We're not talking about back office here - HR, payroll and so on. It appears that the Minister is now prepared to wrest control of whole areas from local government and put them on a wholly different footing - waste, social services, trading standards for example, run regionally or even as a single national service. Mr Sargeant put it more simply - "I'm not precious about who does what".
Is he serious? A government source tells us he's deadly serious: "He is determined to take them on. He holds a lot of cards and he will play them."
The thinking was that with finances tight and getting tighter, even the most isolationist elements in local government accepted they had to do things differently, that they had to collaborate. Refusing to do so 22 times over was simply unsustainable. If they thought so, and if he thought so, and if the First Minister thought so, surely there were big changes on the way. But wholesale reorganisation?
As I say, that was not where he wanted to be. It's expensive at a time when there's no money to spare, it's complex at a time when politicians need to keep an eye on other things, it can be got very wrong at a time you really can't afford to make mistakes.
So what now? As expected for some months now, the announcement of a Commission on Public Service and Delivery, involving all parties and that "provides an opportunity for those who are involved in delivering services, those who are politically accountable for them and users of them to examine how public services are governed: that is, held accountable for their performance and delivered most effectively to the public".
Or as another big beast in local government put it, they might be casting it as a public services commission but here's "the starting gun for Local Government Reform at last!"
The chair, Sir Paul Williams, as former chief executive of the NHS in Wales, is no stranger to reform nor to how the Welsh government likes it to happen. I'm told he's also "very tough".