WLGA notes the publication today of the new Welsh Government Green Paper on local government reform. Local government was already responding proactively to the previous reform programme of regional collaboration and is progressing with the City and Growth Deal agenda. Consequently, this announcement has caused disquiet and confusion. It has arrived midway through the Assembly term and following the recent Welsh Government assurance that no reorganisation would occur for 10 years.
It is not surprising that local authorities will want to clarify and digest the implications of another shift in government policy in an area where there have been a significant number of previous reports and commissions. The proposals are yet to be fully costed and most academic analysis concludes that such reform programmes rarely deliver the savings or changes in performance that were hoped.
We have had a number of constructive discussions with the Cabinet Secretary about reform and empowering local government, and we thank him for his engagement. He is attending the WLGA council meeting this Friday and his proposals will undoubtedly generate a full and rigorous debate.
In the meantime authorities will continue to work in developing city and growth deals at the regional level which has been fully supported by Welsh Government to date. Crucially, WLGA will continue to press the case for proper funding of councils. As current examples in England show scale is not an answer to the crisis in social care and deepening austerity. Merging authorities on the breadline to create larger authorities without the necessary resources is not a sustainable solution to the problems councils face.