Re-org local government? I wouldn't start from here


"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.

But if the government didn't want to talk reorganisation, others did, including some of the biggest beasts in Welsh local government.

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".

Betsan Powys Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I think the pressure of the current situation will mean that this report will have to deliver some sort of change. Both in money terms and operations.
    At the end of the day, all these councils are working on the same thing: Bins, roads, services etc. Must be common ground somewhere, one would think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    #14 Alf, the sinister aspect isn't that the Comments facility was withdrawn, but that it was allowed to open, then quietly deleted when our masters decided that some of the comments were insufficiently laudatory. Now no-one looking at the site would know that several articles ever had comments attached.
    If you dislike the NK analogy, how about Pinochet's Chile. No-one is killed just disappeared.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    3m people in Wales, 3m people in Birmingham. 22 UA's v 1. No sense. 40 MP's v 9 no sense + 60 A M's. No sense. 13 years of Assembly powers under Labour rule no sense. Education, health in a mess.
    Wake up people of Wales, this is your country, don't just complain, do something about it. Only downside: the number of unemployed if the plan is to reduce bureaucracy to sensible and affordable levels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    But we are to blame John they have bombarded us with brain dead television programmes and lies through twisted and manipulated facts and the country follow blindly without thinking things through for themselves. When they realise what is actually going on it will be too late. We are being manipulated into blind oblivion. Apathy rules the day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    ... when I comment I use Microsoft OneNote Boxer, I make a copy of what I submit and the preceding two comments plus any comment I am referring too, The clipping includes the BBC reference automatically including the date and time.

    So when I look back it is with incredulity ...

    ... this is part of our democratic deficit alf, the inability to accept uncomfortable expression by others.



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