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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Welsh Government is so macho!

An extraordinary row has broken out between Welsh Ministers and the Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council over two critical inspection reports.

The Welsh Government has accused the Council of trying to play down the reports' seriousness in some media interviews. But Pembrokeshire Council leader John Davies hit back by alleging that some comments in a letter from ministers were factually inaccurate.

By far the most interesting part of this row is the reaction of the Council Leader:

He later told BBC Wales he was concerned with how the Welsh Government dealt with the matter and accused ministers of turning it into a political and personal issue.

"In my view, this is no way to run a country, it's no way to deal with issues," said Mr Davies.

"We have got issues in Pembrokeshire, as far as safeguarding of children, and what I've witnessed as far as the commitment of those working... in schools and indeed within the main body of the council, we are very keen to put it right.

"We need to put it right. There's no excuse not to put it right."

Asked about accusations of playing down the reports' seriousness, he said the council had admitted deficiencies but had also "put a bit of context and, indeed, moderate some of the issues in relation that had been highlighted".

Clearly, the issues raised by reports of these kind need to be addressed but do we really need Ministers playing at macho politics?

There have been a number of high profile interventions of one sort or another in the last year or so. In each case the Minister has reacted to poor reports by inspectors and yet it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the flexing of muscles on the part of the Government is more than just about driving forward improvement.

Legislation has been put in place to allow more and more intervention. The respect for local democracy that used to exist in the Assembly's early days has disappeared. Now it is about direction and control. Slowly but surely the Welsh Government is gathering more power to itself and limiting the room that local Councils have for manoeuvre. They are paying lip service to the notion of local democracy.

And by using poor performance as the raison d'etre for this approach Ministers also manage to distract attention from their own failures. Should somebody not be inspecting the Welsh Government in the same way and threatening intervention where they are getting it wrong? I bet they would not take it lying down?
hard to add anything; excellent analysis Peter.
A further example is in Higher Education where the autonomous universities of Wales are being threatened more and more by the Welsh Government to follow the agenda of the Government not that which is in the interest of the universities and/or their communities.

A further example is in Higher Education where the autonomous universities of Wales are being threatened more and more by the Welsh Government to follow the agenda of the Government not that which is in the interest of the universities and/or their communities.

However, the Universities themselves care little for "their" communities as is consistently demonstrated. Fitting into the English system would be preferable for many of them to being run from Wales. Most forget their roots and who it was that paid their hard earned money to set them up in the first place!
I think in the case of the universities in Wales there needs to be a strong exercise in 'spending power' by the Welsh Assembly Government based on the appalling lack of emphasis on helping the Welsh economy beyond the usual platitudes and lip-service. Take Swansea University, this university has, inter alia, a large engineering faculty and an ILS with a supercomputer, but its patent issue rate is just awful. "Good Work" is done there, but there but the academics are more interested in giving away patentable subject matter they fall over themselves. WAG has yet to push the reset button via its spending power to sort out universities like Swansea. Yes, Swansea University is a great university, but it is TERRIBLE at patenting in contrast to universities of similar size in enterprise zones/countries in S.E. Asia. Even academic universities in the USA that lack an engineering faculty have better track records at generating IP than Swansea University.
The spat between WAG and Pembs is just another example of one incompetent level of government fighting with another.
We have 5 levels of Government from Community Councils County Councils WAG Westminster and Europe.Can we afford or need so much governing particularly if they are not very good at doing what they do.
WAG doesn't have any spending power over swansea university, for any of the other universities in wales, although it does increasingly try to 'steer' the funding council for wales into using its role to further WAG ends - which don't necessarily help the universities to flourish. It's a mess, and the increasingly impoverished HE landscape in wales bears full testament to all of this.
Anon (12:33 AM)> WAG has spending power through its influence on the HEFCW, and WAG can also make life hard for universities like Swansea that give away IP by the bucket load. Swansea has a huge engineering faculty and a massively powerful supercomputer linked to its ILS (Institute of Life Sciences) but has a DISGUSTING issued patent rate that belongs to the third world. Swansea's a great place, just not in tune with the needs of the Welsh economy on anything like the level needed.
Well said Michael Griffiths
I spent all my working life in local authorities, starting in 1962
They were past their sell-by date when I started work !
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