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Minister accused of governing from the back of an envelope

June 23, 2011 9:47 AM
Originally published by Peter Black and South Wales West Liberal Democrats

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black, has accused Local Government Minister, Carl Sargeant of producing legislative proposals on the future of local councils on the back of an envelope.

Mr. Black's criticism comes in the face of reports that Mr. Sargeant is to go to the WLGA Conference in Swansea today to tell them he is considering legislating so as to acquire the power to force joint appointments on local Councils.

"It is not yet clear what the nature of these joint appointments will be," said Mr. Black, "but it seems fairly clear that they will be limited to local Councils when the natural way forward might be to have combined officer roles for local government and the health service within the same area.

"Of concern is that the Minister does not seem to understand what he wants from this process other than a superficial show of progress towards joint working. As the WLGA have pointed out the real savings to be made are in integrated services not in post holders, and experience shows that the best way to achieve that is from the bottom-up, where all stakeholders buy into the process.

"The danger is that a joint appointment at Chief Executive or Chief Officer level that has been forced upon Councils will prove divisive, unaccountable and ineffective without a greater integration of services. It is a profoundly superficial approach to joint working that indicates that the Minister is more interested in being seen to do the right thing rather than making progress.

"If we are going to have governance like this, from the back of an envelope for the next five years then I fear for the future of local democracy. We all want value for money and a better service but they can not be delivered by forcibly dismantling democratic structures and dictating from the centre. Ultimately, the most effective driver for efficient service delivery is the ballot box. Make that more potent and Councillors have nowhere to hide."