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Friday, June 11, 2010

Getting money to the front line

Interesting article in this morning's Western Mail reporting on the views of education expert, Professor David Reynolds that the schools funding crisis in Wales will not be solved unless we slash the number of education authorites.

Although I don't believe that such a reorganisation should be driven by cost pressures alone, I believe that the Professor is right. I have written in more detail on this issue here. Many of our local Councils are too small to deliver the functions required of them. More importantly reorganisation could be used as an opportunity to give Councils more responsibilities and powers as a quid pro quo if you like for having less Councillors and covering larger areas:

To achieve this we should reforming local government so as to create eight or 10 unitary councils elected by the single transferable vote system in multi-member wards. There would be fewer councillors, approximately a third less, making between 800-900 across Wales but in return they would be better remunerated so that they could devote a substantial amount of time to delivering and scrutinising services and acting in a more strategic way. Each council would be run by a full time cabinet with no more than 10 councillors in each executive body and have a number of strategic directors.

At the same time, the heath boards should be disbanded and their functions should pass their functions to the democratically elected councils, thus creating a single health and social care function that would eliminate duplication and waste and be accountable to local electors not the centre.

And let’s not stop there. All of post 16 education needs to be transferred back to councils so that they could deliver the 14 to 19 agenda as a seamless whole and incorporate the very important vocational education delivered by further education colleges into their service provision.

Councils should also acquire greater strategic control of transport within their area including the power to deliver cross-modal transport solutions and a wider economic development remit. And these bigger unitary authorities should be the ones delivering regeneration initiatives such as Communities First on behalf of the Welsh Government, not the Government micro-managing it from the centre. There are many other central government functions that might be better delivered by such a strategic locally elected body. That is a matter for further discussion. My purpose here is to start a debate and to get people thinking about a way forward.

This is very much a personal agenda and not one I have put before my party as yet, but it seems to me that it is the sort of radical empowerment of local people that the Welsh Liberal Democrats should be talking about at the next Assembly elections.
Don't hide this particular light under a bushel...

... this is music to my ears.
Nice to see you coming onboard Peter.
Leaving aside any specifics about what a reorganised local government structure might do, such reorganisation will generate large spend in redundancy costs against no guarantee of improved services.

Why does "reorganisation" have to be the answer to everything?
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