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Friday, September 02, 2011

Welsh Government undermining democracy

The BBC follow up their story about the enforced regionalisation of local government this morning with another attack on the failure of Welsh Ministers to understand local democracy, this time from local government expert, Professor Tony Travers.

He has warned that the Welsh Government could undermine democracy by appointing too many commissioners to run council services:

The commissioners, unelected experts, are dispatched to local authorities when they run into trouble.

They are currently at Blaenau Gwent and Anglesey, with intervention in Pembrokeshire possible. Those three compare to just one - Doncaster - among England's 152 principal local authorities.

Prof Tony Travers said intervention was made too readily but the Welsh Government said commissioners were appointed when "less direct" measures had failed.

Prof Travers, a director at the London School of Economics, told BBC Radio Wales: "There's no doubt that with commissioners in two councils in Wales and the possibility of intervention in a third, that does suggestion a degree of centralisation to Cardiff, which is paradoxical given that devolution was supposed to shift power away from London to Wales.

"The alarm bell that should gently ring here is that just because devolution has taken place to Cardiff doesn't mean that the government in Wales can themselves then centralise."

I have criticised before the macho flexing of muscles by Welsh Ministers towards local councils. That is not to say that when a council is failing that action should not be taken. There are various degrees of intervention but that seems to be lost on Ministers who prefer to go for the nuclear option every time. The only exception to this seems to be when a Labour-run Council is involved.

The irony of this latest story is not that it will change anything but that Ministers will wear the criticism as a badge of honour. It is a sign of how little they understand about the mess their policies are creating. They are blundering around in the dark instead of working with others to find long-term solutions.
Syggestions as to what the alternative action should be?
There are of course different levels of intervention but I think I have indicated here and on previous posts possible alternative courses of action.
Hi Peter
I totally support the running of local council's by local people for local people. However democracy can not work in Pembrokeshire when all the checks and balance systems have been hijacked by the cabal that lead the council with the support of the majority 'independant' members.
As the report confirmed the power in Pembrokeshire is in the hands of the Chief Officers Management Board who hold their meetings without agenda's or recording minutes. I don't want commisioners just democracy.
I think Jaxxlanders hit the nail on the head regarding motivation. If there is enough talk about under-performing councils then "reform" .i.e reorganisation can be justified.
"... on the failure of Welsh Ministers to understand local democracy"

These ministers also don't have a clue about boosting the Welsh economy.

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