Take your partners for power

Image caption Some council services - such as social care - could be delivered within health board boundaries

Personality in politics is important, and the latest Welsh Government proposals to re-organise councils could be seen as a reflection of that.

Unlike his predecessor Leighton Andrews - a man considered by many to be a political bruiser - the current local government secretary Mark Drakeford is a conciliatory figure.

And the latest plans to create a series of regional partnerships are in keeping with that.

With no round of major redundancies, no major upheaval, and the existing 22 councils remaining in place, this will be acceptable to local government.

That is just as well with elections round the corner. No-one wants to annoy their grassroots party members in town halls up and down the country at any point, never mind with a vote approaching.

Regional partnerships may not sound particularly dramatic, but it does mark a fundamental change. The key point is that councils will be forced to accept them; earlier partnerships were all done on a voluntary basis.

It means that the days of having 22 self-contained, entirely independent bodies will be at an end, with big decisions on big services like social services, transport and planning being made at a regional level.

There will be serious concerns regarding accountability - how do you get rid of a relatively anonymous regional cabinet if it's judged to be failing? - and complexity, particularly as some of the regional boundaries differ, depending on the service.

Despite all of this, the prospects for this reorganisation look far rosier than the previous doomed attempt.

Continental or full English?

Before reporting on the council proposals, I was at the Conservative conference in Birmingham this week.

Apart from a memorable mix-up in a speech by the leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies when Brexit became breakfast, we were also given some strong indications of where the Tories believe some of the government functions should lie post-Brexit, and it doesn't involve Cardiff Bay.

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Media captionFood for thought: Andrew RT Davies confuses Brexit with breakfast

Mr Davies, who is probably the most high-profile farmer in Wales, has been keen to stress that the new system to replace EU farming support should come from Westminster, and not Cardiff Bay, despite agriculture being a devolved matter.

So to stick with the breakfast analogy, we'll be moving from a continental to a full-English.

That isn't strictly true because he still believes the Welsh Government should be able to fine-tune the system to accomodate specific Welsh needs, but his fundamental point is that a new agricultural system should be UK-wide.

His argument, and he believes he'll be supported by many in the farming lobby, is that it would be wrong to create an entirely separate farming system in Wales to England because so much meat and milk produced in Wales has to go to processing centres in England.

In other words, the two systems are too intertwined and that reality should be reflected in any new system that is designed.

The big question is whether he has any support within UK Government circles. It's too early to tell at this stage.

Mr Davies also says he doesn't want the Welsh Government anywhere near any replacement for EU structural funds for deprived communities.

This is an area where he could have significant support from Conservatives at Westminster with the Welsh secretary Alun Cairns showing no let-up on his onslaught on the record of EU spending in this field in Wales.

Behind the scenes, I'm told that relations between the UK and Welksh governments has improved markedly since the departure of David Cameron, but that could disappear quite quickly with so many sticking points on the horizon.

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