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Friday, November 25, 2005

Too big?

The former Labour leader of Bridgend Council tries to jump start a debate on the size and effectiveness of Welsh Unitary Authorities today. He argues that the last round of local government reorganisation in the mid-90s created unitary authorities that were mostly far too small to be efficient.

"If the number was reduced from 22 to less than 10, it would be possible to make huge savings in administration. Currently we have 22 chief executives paid £110,000, 22 directors of education paid £90,000 and so on. We also have far too many councillors. With a smaller number of local authorities, it would be possible to save millions on directors' salaries, procurement, back office functions and IT."

There is no doubt that he has identified a matter that is causing problems for some areas, but is big really beautiful? More importantly should reorganisation be the answer to everything? Structural changes are hugely disruptive, very expensive and can take up to a decade or more to work through properly. Local Government was re-organised in 1972 and 1995, it is far too early to even start thinking about doing it again.

This sort of thing sounds good but there are no easy solutions. Some tinkering perhaps, but ultimately the WLGA have it right. Joint working, the pooling of expertise and resources and collaboration can go a long way to making Councils more efficient whilst keeping them small enough to be accessible and responsive to local needs.
So this guy says there are far too many councillors in Wales?

Trouble is , to the bureaucratic mind the ideal number of councillors is about 0.
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