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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A model Council

Neath Port Talbot Council is one of the few Labour-run authorities left in Wales and Labour Assembly Members, MPs and Ministers are fond of referring to it as a model of best practice, arguing that councils run by other parties would do well to learn from their example.

It will be interesting therefore to see how these same Labour politicians react to today's news that this self-same Council has been unable to secure agreement with its trade unions on changes in working practice and are now considering dismissing its entire workforce and re-employing them on new terms and conditions.

This 'model Council' is facing up to the realities of managing public services within the context of rapidly diminshing resources and is doing exactly the same as every other local authority in Wales in seeking to drive down its costs by removing restrictive and expensive practices. If this had been Liberal Democrat-led Swansea, or Tory-run Vale of Glamorgan though the Labour critics would have been condemning them loudly.

My point is that this playing party political games over the management of public services is not clever and not constructive. Applying different standards to councils depending on who runs them is just hypocritical.

The actions of Neath Port Talbot are not ideal but I understand why they have been put in this position. I hope the nuclear option can be avoided and an agreemnent reached. If we are to protect jobs and services then everybody needs to be more flexible. Not all stakeholders have accepted this yet.
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