Lenin or lemmings?

Lenin Image copyright AP
Image caption Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin

I'm blaming a bad phone line for misquoting the leader of Newport council Bob Bright when he accused the Welsh government of acting Lenin-like with the publication of new legislation to re-organise councils.

He later tweeted me to point out that he had actually said "lemming-like".

A follow-up tweet from Media Wales' David Deans summed it up: "Bob Bright meant a daft animal that falls off cliffs, not an authoritarian marxist. Not sure it's any less damaging."

Whether it's lemmings or Lenin, there will be plenty of council leaders like Bob Bright who are deeply unhappy with the proposals.

The cost of council re-organisation will now come under intense scrutiny.

Top end

The draft local government bill puts it at between £97m and £246m.

Officials say most will be incurred in the first year, and it will take two to three years to pay off entirely.

The top end is broadly in line with the report commissioned by the Welsh Local Government Association so it should at least neutralise one previous criticism which is that the cost is under-estimated.

The Welsh government puts the annual savings at between £64m and £91m for the next ten years.

As well as reducing the administrative staff by around 15% or 20%, the number of officers in senior management teams will be more than halved.

Town halls

It's expected that the top teams in the new eight or nine authorities would be between eight and 15, the same size that exists in the current 22.

We also don't know what sort of revenue could be generated from the value of town halls and civic centres which are sold.

The elephant in the room is that, so far, the Welsh government has been miles away from reaching the kind of cross-party political agreement it needs to get its plans through.

It will depend on the post-May maths at the assembly. The public services minister Leighton Andrews says this legislation will allow changes to be carried out "at pace" if there is agreement.

Presumably, with such a detailed plan behind it, Labour would be hugely reluctant to give up on its ambitions in any possible coalition talks.

Deal

In order for the new authorities to be fully operational by April 2020, a new administration after May will have around six months to put together a deal.

Away from the front-line of re-organisation, there's a big push in the legislation to make councils more transparent so for example it will be compulsory for local authorities to broadcast meetings, and local communities could be consulted on relatively small decisions like park maintenance.