Local Government Reorganisation, Again!

INTRODUCTION

I’m old enough to remember the term ‘Wales and Monmouthshire’ being used, which gave us the thirteen old counties, and then there were the four county boroughs (Swansea, Cardiff, Newport and Merthyr).

This system was swept away by the Local Government Act 1972 which in 1974 gave us a two-tier system of local government, made up of eight counties, thirty-seven districts, and, if I counted them all, 43,736 councillors. It was probably the most absurd system of local government ever devised by man.

Mrs Jones would go her district council office with a query or a complaint only to be told that the issue vexing her was a matter for the county council. (And vice versa.) To further confuse us I seem to recall that responsibilities were often shared or split. Didn’t district councils collect the rubbish but counties dispose of it?

The obvious thing to have done, of course, would have been to do away with the districts leaving us with eight good-sized unitary authorities. But no, this is Wales, and other factors influenced decisions. Such as lowering the minimum population level to 60,000 so that Merthyr could be one of the new unitary authorities.

Quite obviously, twenty-two local authorities – and Powys having more councillors than New York City – is no real improvement on the two-tier system in a country of just over three million people.

The two local government reorganisations introduced in 1974 and 1996 were the work of the UK government and the Boundary Commission with considerable input from political parties and others. But now the power lies with the ‘Welsh’ Government.

For this is the age of devolution; Wales is a land of milk and honey, where lambs frolic under the planet-saving wind turbines (watered daily by the local hippies). Freed from the tyranny of labour by the introduction of AI we fly from Cardiff airport to our villas in the sun – even those from the north can reach Cardiff International in two or three hours on the new motorways and train lines that traverse the land. Students from Vladivostok and Valparaiso fight to get into the Assembly in order to see and hear for themselves our leaders, men and women globally renowned for their wisdom and their probity. Poverty is forever banished, everyone has a nice home and a new electric car or three . . . and I really must lay off the Malbec.

Back to reality. For a few years now the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government down in Corruption Bay, that monument to the late Nicholas Edwards, has toyed with the idea of yet another round of local government reorganisation. The subject seems to surface from time to time, often when Labour needs a distraction, or wants to be seen as ‘visionary’.

Earlier this month the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Local Government Secretary Alun Davies resurrected the suggestion to trim down our twenty-two local authorities to just ten with the publication of a Green Paper. So let’s examine the proposal in a little more detail.

click to enlarge

NORTH, MID AND WEST

In the previous, two-tier system, the north had two counties, Clwyd in the east and Gwynedd in the west. In the map above you’ll see three counties mooted for any future reorganisation. But why?

I suggest that the answer lies with the Labour Party itself. Lump together Flintshire and Wrexham and you create a council that might just have a Labour majority, or certainly a council that could be run by Labour in coalition with Plaid Cymru and/or assorted Independents. (There being no less than three different Independent groups on Flintshire council!)

But add Denbighshire to the mix, where Labour currently has 13 (out of 47) councillors, and a resurrected Clwyd would be much less likely to be a Labour fiefdom. Which makes the union of Flintshire and Wrexham far more acceptable to the bruvvers.

This would leave the combined Denbighshire and Conwy with the burden of almost the whole of the north coast and its problems, ranging from the importation of criminals and assorted deadbeats into Rhyl and other towns to the granny trafficking that gives this littoral its nickname of the Costa Geriatrica.

Gwynedd and Ynys Môn is a natural unit in every way and of little interest to the Labour Party. Though in the former Gwynedd these two were joined with Conwy.

Moving south, to other areas where Labour has little chance of success (and consequently little interest), we see that the ‘Welsh’ Government has no wish to change the status quo or the status quo ante, with Powys left untouched and Dyfed reborn.

THE STEAMY SOUTH

Now we move into the south, where Labour most definitely does have an interest in the new boundaries.

First, Swansea Bay, where my understanding is that Swansea and Neath Port Talbot councils have already agreed in principle to merge, thereby formalising what is happening on the ground, with Amazon’s ‘Swansea’ distribution depot and Swansea University’s new Bay Campus both in Neath Port Talbot.

Aerial photo (courtesy of Swansea University) from 2013 showing the old, Mumbles Road, campus, top star; and the yet to be built Bay Campus, lower star. Also shown: River Neath, M4, Port Talbot to the left, Swansea to the right. Click to enlarge.

Next, it’s suggested that Bridgend links up with Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr. Which makes a certain sense in that they are three staunchly Labour areas covering the central valleys and approximate to the old Mid Glamorgan. Things get more complicated, and contentious, as we move east.

Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan comprised the county of South Glamorgan under the two-tier system, and it’s proposed to bring this back. This respect for history must be the reason for the proposal, and not the fact that the Vale is (with the help of an Independent) a Tory-run authority, with Labour holding just 14 of the 47 council seats.

Merged with more populous, and Labour voting, Cardiff, the proposed new authority would almost certainly have a Labour majority.

GWENT

Moving yet further east, things get really, really complicated.

Under the two-tier system Gwent was one of the eight counties, now it’s proposed to link Newport with Caerphilly, while Monmouthshire merges with Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent. The first we can almost overlook, seeing as it brings together two Labour areas, but the second is gerrymandering on a scale that old-style Ulster Unionists would applaud.

Monmouthshire council today is Conservative run, with the party holding 25 of the council’s 43 seats. At Westminster level Monmouthshire is represented by David Davies MP, and at Welsh Assembly level the AM is fellow-Tory Nick Ramsay.

Next door we find one of the poorest areas in Europe, an area that the twenty-first century – maybe also the twentieth – seems to have passed by. Blaenau Gwent should be held up as an example to the rest of the world of how not to handle the decline of traditional industries.

For whereas in well-run countries the post-industrial era means metal-bashing and extractive industries being replaced by clean, new industries, in Blaenau Gwent it just means neglect and decline. But, God bless ’em, for after a brief flirtation with the People’s Voice, Blaenau Gwent is back to blaming the Tories for its deprivation.

Perhaps I’m wrong, so let’s hear Alun Davies – the AM for Blaenau Gwent – argue that this proposed merger of Monmouthshire with Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent is not a kick in the plums for Dai Davies, nor an act of socialist vindictiveness against wealthier neighbours.

CONCLUSION

Within days of Alun Davies bringing out his Green Paper it came under attack from a very predictable quarter – the Welsh Local Government Association.

Despite all the flim-flam from the WLGA about ‘services’, and the ‘public interest’, and worries about ‘who’s gonna feed the gondolas?’, the real objections to local government reform from this Labour-controlled group are pretty selfish, and no different to the objections to earlier council reorganisations.

If you’re a council leader who’s schemed and back-stabbed his/her way to the top then you won’t take kindly to a plan to dismember your little empire or have it taken over by someone else’s empire. (The big fish in little pools syndrome.) Something similar goes for ambitious younger councillors with dreams of making it to the top.

And even if you have no ambitions beyond turning up now and again, snoozing on the comfy benches in the centrally-heated chamber, and picking up your allowance, you will still be alarmed because mergers must mean fewer councillors.

Which leaves Wales in a dangerous place.

For just about everyone accepts that we need fewer councils. But if the debate is restricted to the ‘Welsh’ Government on the one hand and the Labour-led WLGA representing the councils on the other then party unity will be the priority rather than the public or national interest.

This would be a disaster.

The ‘Welsh’ Government must be firm and force through reorganisation, and it must also fund reorganisation. The money needed to implement the changes will soon be recouped from the savings made in having many fewer councils.

And rather than go for crudely political and frankly illogical mergers why not just revert to the eight counties we knew up until 1996 and with which many of us are still familiar?

To avoid local government reorganisation becoming an internal Labour Party matter I encourage those reading this to make your opinions known; with letters to your local ‘paper, to your AM, your MP, and also make your local councillors realise that you want fewer councils and councillors even it means them losing out.

♦ end ♦

59 thoughts on “Local Government Reorganisation, Again!

  1. Wynne

    Sensible suggestion Jac. Merging Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire to form one Council would be in the public interest. If CEO s are to receive a salary in the region of £150 k per annum there should be one rather than three.

    1. And it won’t just be the CEOs, it will be their deputies, all the other senior officers, and their deputies . . .

      1. Dafis

        Purging the careerists who are glorified administrators, yet many having manipulated themselves into semi dictatorial powers, is a worthy goal in itself. However it is likely that these troughers will be able to “influence” the Labour government to table a “tidy” severance with many of them gliding smoothly into their next highly rewarding role somewhere in public sector or 3rd sector.

  2. A typical example from the past was what happened in the old Glamorgan and its Districts in 1974. It was initially suggested to split it into East and West until Llew Heycock realised he was to be marginalised. So it was split three ways to give the later “Lord” his own fiefdom and his own employment agency in the west. This is but a simple example of appeasing the interests of Labour over the interests of the people of Wales. You can be sure this will happen again.

      1. Dafis

        There was another in Bridgend who really got into all sorts of power broking relationships after ’74. Can’t remember his name but he even looked like one of those gents out of the Godfather films !

  3. Bondy

    Isn’t the plan to add more AM’s into the Senedd part of the answer to reducing the number of councillors if/when local government is reorganised? Easier to get agreement to reorganisation if the more “influential”/ambitious – or simply troublesome! – current local councillors are offered a new role in Cardiff.

    1. I can see the attractions, both to ambitious councillors and a public sceptical about increasing the numbers of AMs.

  4. Dafis

    Reconstruction of local government is essential. Beyond being a matter of boundaries there should also be a review of social services – their administration, control and service delivery – as these are becoming a demographic timebomb and post code lottery. This site has long waged a lone campaign against the importation of a costly mix of service-dependent people so I won’t revisit the detail. However the services which are drawn upon need to be taken into detailed account before anything is signed off. A favoured solution right now is to shift the social services into the NHS to give an integrated approach. 2 immediate obstacles come to mind : that the NHS is removed from direct democractic accountability ( not that has existed much in any area of our lives !), and, that the NHS has shown little or no track record to date of being able to deliver an integrated approach to its existing mandates.

    Another “tasty” subject will be the terminations of a range of councillors and executives, many of whom will be looking for a “package” before waltzing off to join another authority or into a nice little number in the 3rd sector. I don’t possess the precise details of contractual terms but I am left gasping at the naivety of those who sign off on the rules that allow for these “enhanced” packages in the first place. Jac’s pal, mylord James, may even look for one of these if it is sufficiently gilt edged and would probably contrive to turn up later in yet another juicy role. All right for some.

    So, the more one thinks about it the muddier the picture gets. Much of our other favoured “economic activity”, the Third sector, interfaces with local authority functions and activities. Perhaps now is the time to review that as part of the broader “public service” offer and reel it in, or create an accountability that is far more clear cut thus blowing away the opaque screens that surround many of these 3rd sector bodies presently. It was shocking to hear some spokesman whitter on the other day about the “housing deficit” here in Wales, when our housing associations and other “care” organisations have been busy moving groups of people with “needs and issues” in from the other side of Offa’s Dyke while telling people already resident here to go join the queue !. There is a housing deficit, that is undeniable, but the response should be based on meeting the real needs of people rather than engaging in a quasi commercial activity that relieves metropolitan England of its burdens while our own live in 3rd rate homes.

    1. You raise a number of important points, Dafis.

      One way of making the whole process more attractive to both the public and their councillors would be to give the new authorities more responsibilities by transferring certain spheres currently the preserve of the third sector, for example, social housing.

      Much of what the third sector does in Wales has been hived off from local government and the public sector, so if the money is there to fund such activities in the third sector (and we know it is) why isn’t that money available for the same duties to be discharged by local government? With the added advantage that local government is democratically accountable and subject to FoI legislation, unlike the third sector.

      Doing so would not only remove much of ‘Welsh’ Labour’s power of patronage, it would also save us from the constant influx of ‘Gimee! Gimee!’ bastards looking to make a small fortune from ‘Welsh labour’s misuse of our public funds.

  5. Big Gee

    Bigger is not more beautiful. I would prefer a bottom up approach. Centralisation, which in effect would be the result of merging councils into bigger groups, does not bode well for the people at ground level. If this is the direction why not take it a step further and have one council for the whole of Cymru? Based of course in Cardiff Bay, where they would not have a clue about the needs and requirements of Mrs Jones and her family on Ynys Môn, or for that matter Mrs. Evans in Blaenrhondda. It is the wrong direction of travel. What’s that you say? Yes that’s right, let’s have a bigger assembly, with power over all the decisions in all the councils in Cymru? THAT’S a good idea – seeing as that concept has been shown to be such a roaring success for the WHOLE of Cymru to date! What’s required is more localised governance and less centralisation – a pet idea of Socialists everywhere. It is the centre plank of their policies – see Soviet Union for more details.

    At present local, community councils, are in effect Micky Mouse councils, with no real power or means of enhancing the life of the locals they represent (apart from decisions about dog shit in parks, how big the Christmas tree should be or which hedge needs trimming in the village or town). What is needed is more autonomy at community level, more power to make decisions on real things that effect the people in the community, like e.g. planning for building etc.

    Using where I live in Ceredigion as an example. The merging of Ceredigion, Penfro and Caerfyrddin would mean some committee (probably based in Caerfyrddin), would not have a clue what the needs of hill farmers in Ponterwyd is all about. Anymore than a representative for the Melindwr ward (where Ponterwyd is) would have about the everyday life of someone in Llanelli.

    The whole concept of this type of merging would throw up the same problems and the same objections as the old Dyfed County Council did. The result? They went back to the old system. And now we want to give DCC MKII a whirl again? So what’s changed since 1972?

    The further away from the people you take the governance, the fainter their voices become. Take the governance of Ceredigion to Carmarthen it gets fainter, take it to Cardiff and it gets fainter still. Take it to Westminster and it’s hardly a whisper – you can hardly hear it at all. And if the ‘ Remainers’ had their way, take it to Brussels and it’s lost altogether.

    What about the cost you say? Come off it. You can’t sacrifice the people’s voice for a few shekels. That red herring is a direct result of Tory austerity and limitations on local government spending – nothing more. It’s now the flavour of the month in the list of excuses to take decisions at local level away from the people at local level. It’s the centralisation of power and influence. There’s always billions available for HS2 and Trident. Don’t be fooled by the “we can’t afford it” argument. It’s a case of how you redistribute the wealth.

    You make a correct observation when it comes to wastage Jac – look no further that Labour’s beloved 3rd Sector. Decisions regarding housing I believe should be given entirely to Community Councils. Along with most other decisions that effect the people in local communities. Other more generalised portfolios can be dealt with at a different level. Basic control and freedoms of choice should be far nearer to the people.

    1. Gwilym, You make some good points but one problem with giving more responsibility to community councils is that there might be a lack of available talent to exercise those powers. So would your community councils employ officers? And if so, where would be the improvement?

      Linked to this problem is the danger that the smaller the authority the more risk there is of an individual or a clique controlling that authority.

      1. Big Gee

        There are limits – obviously. If you have a community council serving 50 people in one village – of course you’ll get the problem you highlighted.

        It would have to be structured, with smaller communities grouped to attain a certain size, but still local, bordering each other and with a common traditional communality. The important factor is that it’s the community council that makes decisions on important matters involving the people in that community, and not some committee of ‘city slickers’ who don’t know their arse from their elbows when it comes to the plight of a community 60 miles away.

        The smaller the number of county councils (within the present system) , the further away they are from the people. It’s classic centralisation to save a bit of dosh that’s wasted on something else. We all know it doesn’t work, and we all know the people are endlessly moaning that decisions regarding their daily lives are taken by people who are totally detached from them and might as well be based in Cardiff Bay! That’s the main gripe with the Assembly set-up it’s too centralised and is seen as Cardiff centric just looking after the fat cats in the city.
        Tinkering with the present system, “shall we have more, or shall we have less of the same thing”? Is a stupid exercise – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is a sign of madness according to Einstein.

        It needs to be dismantled. Rethought out and rebuilt from the bottom up – giving the councils at grass roots more powers.

        Check out ‘The Swiss Cantonal System: A Model democracy’

    2. I’m more with Big Gee on this than with you, Jac. Centralisation is as great an enemy to our communities as colonialism. I also agree with Gwilym on the point of ‘grouping’ adjacent communities to take advantage of expertise in a number of areas.

      I would add one other thing which I think would remove some of the worst problems we have, and it could be deployed even under the current system: that is, to make it clear in law (or at least in the constitutions of councils) that the paid officers of the council are bound to implement the wishes of the elected members, rather than what seems to happen in most councils nowadays (and not just Caerfyrddin and Penfro) where the council’s hirelings have (or seek) greater power than the councillors. It would help stop the empire-building of the likes of Mark James and return ultimate control to where it should be – with the voters. If councillors screw up or prove themselves to be otherwise unfit, they can at least be voted out; the highly-paid CEOs and their cliques cannot be removed by anything much short of force.

  6. Brychan

    I remember the old Mid Glamorgan County Council, where county hall and offices were in Cathays Park in Cardiff not even inside the geographical footprint of those elected onto it. I assume after the merger of Merthyr, RCT and Bridgend it will be called the Celtic Warrior Council with everything moved to Bridgend. Shortly afterwards, this again, being downgraded, to be swallowed up by Cardiff. This is just a process of marginalizing distinct communities and lining the pockets of a centralised bureaucracy, distant and unaccountable.

  7. I agree that a knee-jerk “22 local authorities is too many – let’s cut them down to size!” reaction should be tempered by a much more nuanced consideration of what the essential purpose of local authorities should be over the next few years. This has to be the crux of the matter, rather than focusing all our energies on which areas should be linked together as part of the proposed re-organisation.

    As you say, it is an opportunity to put the case for incorporating some elements of the local health service (e.g. social care) within a revamped local authority structure, and it’s high time that the bloated and unaccountable third sector be brought to heel as well (especially social housing/homelessness which has created such problems for communities all over Cymru – what’s the latest figure, 48 different charities handling the latter by now, with each one of them having a vested interest in perpetuating the said problem). This has such an impact on local communities, it just has to be subject to democratic accountability.

    I would also argue that planning for language and community revitalization should also be at the heart of any proposed changes.

    I think it’s a golden opportunity to give Cymraeg it’s most significant boost for many a year, if ARFOR (an authority for Mon, Gwynedd, Ceredigion, Caerfyrddin, operating through the medium of Welsh) could be established in the West. Such an authority could also provide associate membership for other Welsh-speaking areas outside this core, such as north Penfro, parts of Conwy, Dinbych and Powys. This would prove to be a much more meaningful and purposeful move to stabilise and develop our Welsh-speaking areas, than the spurious and meaningless target of a million speakers by 2050. It would provide an important employment structure for young people growing up in these areas, as well as attracting Welsh speakers from other parts of Wales. If you make Cymraeg the language of local authority work in these area – that would be the biggest single incentive for incomers to learn our language.

    I truly think that ARFOR could prove to be more beneficial for the language than S4C (supposedly the epitome of language campaigning over the years) has ever been. Welsh-speaking Wales deserves some well-deserved recompense for losing two generations of its youngest and brightest talents to Cardiff – ARFOR could be one significant answer.

    Yes, of course it would be a huge geographical area and people might struggle to relate to it as a stand-alone structure, so the democratic deficit should be met by providing community councils with a much more beefed up role in the set-up (as Big G has argued), to focus on community renewal from the bottom-up. ARFOR could provide the strategic direction of travel, and the community councils could implement things on a more localized level. This way language and community revitalization can happen hand in glove.

    ARFOR could fit in to the old 8 county model in a new guise – and it would provide a real counterweight to the Labour fiefdoms elsewhere.

    1. I agree with most of what you say, but my article was simply looking at Labour’s – or maybe Alun Davies’s – proposals for local government reorganisation.

      Yes, more needs to be said about what we expect of our councils, and how services currently delivered by unaccountable adjuncts to the Labour Party can be more effectively and democratically delivered by local authorities. But these and other considerations are for a separate but supplementary piece.

      Now then, Arfor. I’m familiar with the name, and the general concept, but little else. Please explain it in greater detail. In fact, I’m prepared to offer you a guest post of up to 1,500 words. Whaddya say?

  8. JD

    I think the new 10 system is fair. However, I would devolve an awful lot of powers to them and make them accountable to the new councils so we can do without the useless health boards and education consortia. People then can’t blame Cardiff Bay for being/seeming too distant.

    Local government will never be perfect or please everyone, especially not in a country as ungovernable and fractured as Wales.

    I just hope the new Dyfed, as well as Conwy-Dinbych and Powys can operate solely through the medium of Welsh. There’s no excuse now.

  9. Arfor

    What about a unified Ynys Mon, Gwynedd and Ceredigion council? They could really protect the language and demand powers over housing and tourism (Seeing as Alun Davies says they are up for grabs)

    This could even include parts of Conwy and north Pembrokeshire

    1. CambroUiDunlainge

      Splits Wales in two. Power needs to be given over housing and tourism no doubt. But it shouldn’t be in a way that divides Wales along any kind of social, cultural, economic or linguistic lines. Just causes problems we do not need.

      Protecting the Welsh language means pro-activity and Welsh mediums across all of Wales. Full immersion… not waiting inside Harlech Castle for a siege.

  10. A few years ago various suggestions from a few thoughtful onlookers were made about the present twenty two Unitary Authorities sharing certain functions that the public did not use directly. These were sharing of :- Personnel Departments and sharing Salaries / Pay Departments and sharing Estates Departments and sharing Strategic Planning and sharing some parts of their Legal Departments and sharing Tourism promotions. Such moves would not have inconvenienced the public – the “consumers”. Obviously there could have sadly been lost staffing career opportunities. Other suggestions were made of hiving off parts of Social Services to the Health Authorities whilst maintaining the parts used more directly by the public. Other suggestions were a need for a very lengthy Boundary Review of amending boundaries instead of hastily simply hacking or joining (lumping together). Many boundaries had gone back to ancient lines of rivers and streams – even pre-Norman! There has been a long amicable sharing of County Archives as an example. If most of Social Services went to the Health Authorities then the “Housing Associations” could come back to the Councils – which is a local issue for local needs. Development Control / Planning, (below Strategic Level), is a local service need. All strategic “A” roads could be shared but lesser roads maintenance could be retained locally. All this could be done via a few large Unitary Authorities but leaving a tier of District control management at a District Level within those larger units, whilst not reverting to a two tier system. With all Council Wards being single one Councillor Wards, not multi member Wards that favour the “bruvvers”. The Wales Assembly needs to be pruned, not expanded, back to a small number of AMs – only one to each Unitary Authority. These thoughts may be a lot of “bullocks”, but it all needs a long serious think, and not a rushed job. Of course the “bruvvers” in Cardiff’s Advisory huddles will not consider any of this. They will only do what’s best for the murky swamp bubble creatures in the Bay, and their nominees in the third sector and their communications buddies! So why bother? Let them get on with it and our grand children can accuse them for what they were in fifty years time!

    1. Brychan

      In 1974 an argument for ‘big is better’ was that ‘personnel Departments and sharing Salaries / Pay Departments and sharing Estates Departments and sharing Strategic Planning and sharing some parts of their Legal Departments and sharing Tourism promotions’ had to be done on an IBM35 mainframe costing millions. That processing power can now be done on a desktop PC with Wifi to tablets in field and high street, for a few hundred quid. There is no longer a ‘technology’ argument for ‘big is more cost effective’.

      Also, the reason why the ‘national procurement service’ for local government failed is because it’s cheaper for Cerys or Ianto in a council portacabin to find the best value item using google. There is no need for councils to ‘warehouse stock’ and the ‘best price bulk buy theory’ no longer applies. That process is already done by the likes of Amazon in Swansea.

      Is there any ‘document’ that can prove that creating ‘mega-councils’ will actually save money? I suspect it’s just a pet project for overpaid executives to garner more power and prestige and middle management to justify their existence. There a false premise that the oily mechanic working under a lorry needs someone in a collar and tie to order the best track-rod-end, a throwback to the English class system that has been imposed upon our country. It’s also the reason why ‘small states’ like the Baltics and Ireland have better productivity than the United Kingdom because they have by-passed this unnecessary administrative burden.

      1. Dafis

        Brychan’s comments home in on many of the self inflicted limitations of local government in Wales and probably throughout the U.K. The centralised “design, acquisition and processing” of services is a big symptom of the bureaucratic condition where the integrity and survival of the bureaucracy is deemed more important than the quality and integrity of those services. They never got on top of it when they bought all those big IBM’s and similar kit and the agility and flexibility afforded by distributed PC and hand held kit is way beyond them. That hasn’t stopped them buying the stuff at grossly inflated prices when, as you say, the front line staff could easily have got specified gear from a major retailer for relative “bladders”. Top down interference has often inhibited maxing out on the use of these bits of kit because some high ranking twit prefers to tell everybody what they are allowed to do and how to do it.

        Which leads us to the latest of a long list of bureaucratic blind alleys, this infamous N.P.S, a haven for dud procurement professionals who never got exposed to lean, agile practice in a commercial environment had speedread a few books and decided that the best way forward was to do deals with major corporate suppliers who must have thought Xmas come early, and often ! Buying crap at inflated prices is not a way to generate savings – that is a fact of basic arithmetic and does not need some exotic management theory to underpin it.

        My cynical side, which comes out for the occasional trip, has concluded that local government attracts a seriously defective type of person into its upper echelons. These are often people who will build bureaucratic empires to suit their egos or other underlying personality traits/defects whether you present them with a smallish unit like Ceredigion or a bigger unit like Cardiff. They just can’t help it.

        Perhaps C.E.O’s and senior tier people should be recruited into those senior leadership roles on fixed terms which would do away with compensation culture at termination. Elected councillors should be made to define and agree service mandates based on accurate “market” information like how many miles of A,B or unclassified roads have you got to service, how many kids will travel through various school age bands over next 5 years, how many old people will travel through various 60+ age bands, and better definition for housing planning because they have a better grasp of their local demographic mix. Right now they behave like everything is a big surprise or that the end of the world is nigh. With clearer understanding of service needs these bodies could move to flatter management structures with more scope for letting the workers at the sharp end get on with their jobs.

  11. I mentioned ancient boundaries above. They were generally following the spoils of ancient war. Take the present 2018 boundary between Carmarthenshire and north Swansea. That was defined in the far distant past, and then more “recently” in the year 1287 after disputes between the Welsh (Rhys of Dinefwr) and the Normans (de Breos of Gower). That Council boundary line has been the Cathan stream and the Llwchwr river for at least a thousand years.
    There are many such Council boundaries. Some still serve modern communities well, whilst others are certainly out of date. The swamp dwellers in Cardiff know nothing of real community life and senses of “belonging”. They will just hack and / or lump together what looks neat on a map on an office wall in Cardiff Bay – particularly if what they see on this distant wall suits the bruvvers and their special advisers and wimin communicators.
    The new Councils – big or small – need to be well thought out. Will they?

    1. Dafis

      erthygl ddiddorol , lot o synwyr ynddi, werth ail edrych yn fanylach. Hefyd yr erthygl isod gan Gwilym a’r map yn werth ei weld, heb son am y syniadau mae e’n gynig .

  12. Big Gee

    Ail gyhoeddiad o erthygl ystyrlon. Un peth a’n trawodd i, oedd cysylltiadau rhwng y tair ar ddeg ‘hen’ sir, gyda ein hanes llenyddol, ein treftadaeth a’n diwylliant, ac wrth gwrs ein hacenion plwyfol. Lle y mae ein traddodiadau sirol, a’n ffiniau naturiol yn meddwl rhywbeth, ac y mae’r ffiniau hynny – yn aml wedi eu rhannu gyda chwrs afonydd. E.e. Y Llwchwr, neu yma yng Ngheredigion Y Teifi. Y mae’r acen a’r traddodiadau hanesyddol yn aml yn newid gyda’r ffiniau naturiol hyn.

    Yma yng Ngheredigion, y mae pethau yn newid wrth groesi’r afon i Sir Gaerfyrddin, neu i Sir Benfro. Rhanniadau naturiol sydd yn adlewyrchu y gwahaniaethau cymunedol.

    Pan y mae rhyw ‘goc oen’ (yn aml Saes) yn edrych ar fap, does dim llyfeliaeth gando, neu hi, o’r math o batrwm hollol anesmwyth ac annaturiol y maent yn eu creu. Yn y bôn y mae hyn yn cael ei deimlo gan bobl fel rhwygo cymudedau o wrth eu gilydd, neu eu tynnu i fewn i ryw sefyllfa lle y mae’r cymunedau yn cael eu gwasgu at eu gilydd, gan greu y teimlad o beidio a bod yn rhan o rywbeth sydd wedi datblygu dros yr oesoedd, ac y maent yn gyfforddus gyda ef.

    Mae’n gwestiwn llawer dyfnach na gwneud rhyw benderfyniad ffug sy’n seiliedig yn unig ar wariant arian. Mewn ffordd, gellir ddadlau ei fod yn rhannol gyfrifol am ddirywiad ein ymwybyddiaeth o bwy ydym ni. ac o ble yr ydym yn perthyn. Nid yw plwyfoldeb yn gyfan gwbl beth gwael. Y mae’n rhoi cysur i ni ein bod yn gwybod i ble yn ddaearyddol yr ydym yn perthyn.

    Dyna eto ddadl gref dros roi mwy o rym i wneud dewisiadau yn nes at y bobl. Y Cynghorau Cymunedol ddylai gael y gair cryfa’ mewn penderfynniadau sy’n ymwneud a bywyd dyddiol y bobl yn y cymunedau hynny, ac nid rhyw gyngor anweledigy sy’n bodoli ganoedd o fillitiroedd i ffwrdd.

    Unwaith eto, cyfeiriaf y darllenydd at y gyfindrefn yn y Swisdir (‘The Swiss Cantonal System: A Model democracy’).

    Oes rhywun yn cofio yr hen gyfundrefn o Gantrefi yng Nghymru?

    1. Brychan

      I agree that numerous ‘reorganisations’ have squeezed distinct communities with no natural affinity together. I also think that the planning system to be open to corruption and somewhat distant.

      While our new ‘unitary’ authorities are supposed to take note of the wishes of community or town councils this rarely happens, and it’s quite often the case on a difficult planning issue for the local ward councillor to abstain or launch a faux objection while his or her colleagues from the other side of the county to force it through, by arrangement. There is also the Welsh Government override that can ‘call in’ a planning issue and impose a development. This is undemocratic, especially on planning matters.

      I agree that the Swiss ‘cantonal’ approach to be a good reform, devolving final say decisions on planning down to community level. The ‘big ticket’ admin on this such as water, environment, building regulation and land database is already handled in a ‘scientific way’ as national consultation service, so due to modern technology there is no heavy administrative cost to devolving planning decisions to local communities. All of Wales should have Cantrefi, replacing the artificial division between town and country imposed first by the Normans and then by English owned industrial conglomerates.

      When you say parochialism is not entirely bad, I think it’s a desirable thing. It would prevent ‘clone towns’ and open up rural communities to have more imaginative development or linguistic conservation. It would also stop the colonial Lammas types impose themselves upon rural communities yet allow for wealthy Welsh to resettle in Cantrefi with innovative ‘real proven’ type constructions in keeping with local landscapes and local architectural tradition.

  13. Dafis

    Completely off topic – just went onto Nation.Cymru where Ffred has written an interesting piece – bit contentious but worth a look. Anyway Dafis sets about having a comment only to find that it looks like it’s all bound into Facebook. Bloody hell, after all we’ve heard about that shower and the abuse of data, info etc over recent days why has IMJ tied in with them ? Or am I missing something ?

    1. Nation.Cymru had a crash or an attack last week and when it came back that was the format. I used to post comments as Royston Jones because it would lose comments from Jac o’ the North, but now I must comment as Jac o’ the North, presumably because of the Facebook link.

      1. Dafis

        Oh well that goes into the bin from a commenting point of view. I have been averse to Facebook long before this recent episode only contributing comments on subjects of no importance like sport or people I know who persist in running photos of dogs or babies !!!

        1. Wrexhamian

          A minnau, Dafis. I want nothing to do with Facebook, so no more comments (for what they were worth) on Nation.Cymru from Wrexhamian.

          Going further off-topic, is it true that the Planning Inspectorate have actually listened to Gwynedd Council and Cymdeithas Yr Iaith and rejected Morbaine’s request to swamp Penrhosgarnedd in Bangor with new, unwanted housing, citing concerns about the effect on the Welsh language? If so – ardderchog!

          That’s a victory that I put that down partly as testimony to the effectiveness of Jac’s regular reports on such matters.

          1. I too have had to refrain from commenting on Nation.Cymru since have been forced through Facebook. I did e-mail IMJ to express my displeasure at people being forced to use Facebook to comment, and also asked for my subscription to be cancelled, but it seems my request has been ignored, and my concerns over being forced to use Facebook dismissed.

            It’s a very retrograde step for a site that was beginning to develop and show promise. The added danger of course, is that employers frequently check social media like Facebook, and I’m sure that there are some employers who would take issue with some of the legitimate opinions expressed in the comments on Nation.Cymru by their employees.

      2. CambroUiDunlainge

        Attacked? Didn’t think it had a high enough profile to warrant such attention. But as Dafis said with the abuse of data and governments collecting social media information… not sure having it linked to Facebook is such a good idea. Especially for those of us who currently have no wish to mix their political views with the rest of their life.

        1. Dafis

          Not inclined to paranoia, just say that I have a high degree of awareness and sensitivity ! But for sure if these Analytica & Aggregate IQ have been doing serious data mining and using social media to feed out suitably tailored “fake news” to influence us suckers in the fields, then our benign UK Government will have also been at it for some time.

          There were suggestions that the Scottish referendum was blighted by covert Brit activity, while the pro Brit mouthpieces cried foul over the online activities of pro independence scribblers. Frankly I don’t get really bothered with blogs etc churning out fibs, distortions and downright lies. I’m more bothered by those fuckers who go probing into large banks of info to build up intelligence on people so that it can be used for specific targetted campaigns. Now it may be too late to tighten up as the likes of Google already know my “preferences” though what they make of my scatty online patterns would make interesting reading !

          It’s said that Russian hackers occasionally subcontracted to undertake “black ops” by their government agencies are paid enough to cover the cost of popping out and buying a new machine every time they finish a project or a target retaliates mid-intrusion with a damaging injection of malware “worm”or virus. Still I suppose it’s a bit less painful than lobbing a nuke whenever someone takes offence.

  14. Private Partz

    I recall Leighton Andrews insisting that we went to 8 councils. Whilst this was an improvement for me it was a cowardly act as all it did was resurrect the top tier Authorities of the 1974 reorganisation. Any complainants would be told that it had worked for 22 years previously and now they have more powers to play with.

    Andrews loses his seat so along comes the hapless ‘lessons will be learned’ Drayford. He rips up the whole shooting match and says he will visits all 22 Authorities to gauge opinion and get them to collaborate and merge. True to form we still have 22 LAs.

    For me we need to bang heads together. The current situation is a divide and rule scenario that allows Complacent Carwyn and his cronies to carry on with their Cardiff Centric policies that are killing Wales economically, and literally if the new decision on the Major Trauma Centre pans out.

    We need 4, maybe 5 LAs that are big enough and ugly enough to fight their corners. Super Authorities with Police, Fire , Health etc all tied in. These would be North, Mid, SW and SE. A simple but powerful structure that would be easy to understand by the electorate and would offer true comparisons of per capita spend by WAG across Wales. Such figure are like gold dust ATM.

  15. Lyn Thomas

    The 1972 reorganisation that gave us 8 counties and 37 districts replaced a system of 13 counties, 4 county boroughs and the counties in turn were divided into 164 municipal borough, urban and rural district
    councils. The rural districts were in turn divided into several hundred parish council areas. So at each turn the number of councils and councillors have decreased. I favour a return to a two tier system of districts (around 27 of them) handling the more local affairs and 5 regional councils, three based on the cities of Cardiff, Newport and Swansea and two covering the north and the west (including Powys). These would cover the big ticket issues like education, social services but also take over the running of the health service, police and fire service from the current joint boards and quangos. Its about accountability, at the moment we have 22 unitary authorities, 7 health boards, 4 police bodies, 3 fire and rescue services, 4 education consortia, two city region boards – all made up of unaccountable and invisible people. Id also strengthen the community councils and encourage them to merge into larger units covering both urban and rural communities within a natural catchment area.

    1. Private Partz

      Wow Lyn. You highlight how over governed we have been, and still are. A two tier system and Borough Councils would surely be over subscribing for an area like Wales. The big difference now in relation to the last reorganisations is we have an Assembly sitting on top of the whole shooting match.
      Nope I think my 4 or 5 LAs and Community Councils plus pressure groups working within them would more than suffice.
      I hasten to add that I would not want a penny less paid into Local Government. All savings would need to be ploughed back into frontline services.
      Had Wales a population of 20 million plus then I might agree with you.

    2. The pre-1972 system you’re harking back to may have looked more complicated but there was less duplication. There may have been many more of them but urban district councils and rural district councils were subservient to the county in which they were located. So it was effectively a two-tier system, with county boroughs being separate and representing a single level of local government. Yes, there were parish councils, and we still have community councils at the same level.

      The 1972 reorganisation did away with urban and rural district councils but councillors at that level weren’t paid, were they? What the changes of 1972 gave us was many more paid councillors, council leaders, and council officers – for 45 different councils!

      I agree that there needs to be more accountability in the running of many services, but handing them over to councillors is not appealing. Direct elections are a better bet, such as with our four PCCs, which although not a great success are at least democratic, though people tend to vote out of party political allegiance rather than on the abilities of the candidates.

      Ideally, we need a system of direct democracy that is free of politics. I don’t think it’s possible.

      Short of that we could certainly follow the Irish and Scottish model with a single police force. (How the hell can anyone justify Gwent Police?) A national fire and rescue service is also desirable and would be relatively easy to organise. Both bodies should be headquartered somewhere in the centre of the country.

      As for health, it’s in such a mess that I’m open to any ideas for improvement.

      1. Dafis

        National police force is a sound idea except the wankers would have its H.Q in Cardiff no matter what logic dictates. Just having one Chief Cop and one Commissioner would be a blessing.

        As for fire & rescue service it could run nationally with 4 divisions ( N,S,E,W ) with specialist units in places like Snowdonia providing chargeable services for idiots who go up mountains wearing their best daps ! In due course it might also absorb Coastguard & lifeboat functions, again with a chargeable element. Stop Hoorays getting free salvage if they tip over off Abersock.

        1. Brychan

          We need a Welsh Minister of Police and Justice accountable to a Welsh parliament, nothing short of direct accountability to the people of Wales, just like in Scotland.

          Operationally, there should be a Chief Constable for Community Policing for North, West, Mid and South, but I see no reason why back office operations need to be in Cardiff. Bridgend seems logical. I also recommend a ‘national crime squad’ to deal with CID, a fraud squad, a national forensics service (Aberystwyth) and integrating British Transport Police into the community policing commands, these officers part of ‘traffic’ specialist units north and south. Armed units under specialist command based in Merthyr and Rhyl.

          We don’t need to look at England for a model. Ireland and Sweden has similar ‘geographical challenges’, so we should look there for best practice.

          No butchers aprons on uniforms and all branding to be Heddlu (no need for English like the Gardai in Ireland) and full operational control to the Senedd via the Policing minister.

      2. Lyn Thomas

        It was even more complex than I suggested, some districts were given powers to act as an education authority or split the provision of services. No councillors were paid prior to 1972 they could all claim an attendance allowance. Where I think there is more of a problem is with the power of the chief executives being more powerful than that of the council leader and in some cases seeming to dictate the agenda of full council meetings. I propose a two tier system because in the rural areas because of the large size of the regional bodies would be too geographically remote, while smaller units are too small to have the expertise needed to handle all functions. In urban areas the need is more about regional planning coupled with a sense of identification with their locality that demands some recognition of that locality as a political entity.

  16. Dafis

    Just found out about the death of Emyr Hywel. Good Community worker with strong set of ideas and principles about how the language could be defended and fostered within communities rather than having a £100k p.a tosspot acting out some ineffective pseudo-custodian role in Cardiff Bay. Gee will have known him well especially from that all too brief Cymuned period where some good ideas were created but stifled by malign forces.

    1. Big Gee

      Oh no. When was that Dafis? Nobody told me. Old Emyr took it hard when we lost the mayoral referendum in Ceredigion, which we worked so hard to get by collecting over 100,000 signatures on a petition – we only needed 80,000 to trigger a referendum. It was designed to get rid of Dai Lloyd Evans and to get a council leader directly elected by the people. He was also with me from the start, it was him, Seimon Brooks and I that were the founding members of Cymuned.

      We lost touch, mainly because Emyr retreated into his shell and away from politics after the referendum failure, the failure of Llais Ceredigion to get seats on Ceredigion County Council (both things that we blamed solely on Plaid’s short sighted dog in the manger attitude towards us) and the ensuing demise of Cymuned.

      That news has really saddened me.

      malign forces.

      Bloody right – they have a name – Plaid Cymru – with their ‘dog in the manger’ attitude. That could have been a break through period for them, if only the twerps could see further than the tip of their noses. Classic, they lost their Ceredigion seat at the next election, directly because of the way they had behaved.

  17. Talking about “wind turbines (watered daily by the local hippies)”, I was just back visiting family in Garnant under the shadows of the wind turbines there, when I was told of the “Eco-village” that is going to be built in a muddy patch behind the houses there. https://media.onthemarket.com/properties/4197598/477598745/document-0.pdf Not a pleasant place for houses, though I remember playing there years ago as a young child in the scree and muddy water of the post-industrial landscape, but at least it is now close to the golf course.

    Calling the estate “Brecon View!”? In Garnant? Shows a great deal of knowledge and respect for the area. And “Golygfa Aberhonddu” in Welsh – https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/10908314/officers so it isn’t even a weird mix up over where the Brecon Beacons are. But seeing as for some reason one of the directors is a Dutch police officer, perhaps knowledge of the area isn’t their strong point.

    This comes shortly after being told on my last visit of the stabbing of a local well-liked chemist by an immigrant from Liverpool, https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/pensioner-delusional-disorder-stabbed-pharmacist-14270345 who had moved from Liverpool after raping children under 14 there, to have treatment for his mental condition in Garnant.

    Hopefully the new inhabitants attracted by the “Eco village” will be less stabby and child-rapey than previously, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on them being of more benefit to the local community.

      1. Dafis

        If Garnant Golf Club, or whatever name it trades under, get to develop any sort of “home” on that patch then there should be a refund of original public sector loans, funds, grants etc with a modest interest levy. It was ” handed over” because it was deemed a “dud”. Evidently it had latent value, which might have, should have, been known to those most familiar with the property. Or did the County Council in their infinite wisdom hand it over knowing well that if there were any gains to be made they would be well looked after by local party friends ? Perhaps Mr Madge could direct interested parties to the documentary history that sheds light on this matter. What ?, no paper trail ? well that is a surprise !

    1. Here’s Land Registry plan of Garnant Golf Club. Please tell me exactly where these eco holiday homes are situated.

      The whole site is of course owned by the council but leased by the club. Here’s the Twitter account. And here’s the Companies House information. Why is a Dutch cop involved?

      I tried getting the planning details from the council website, but couldn’t find anything. Might try again over the weekend. I mean, they wouldn’t be pushing ahead without planning permission, would they?

  18. West Glamorgan to rise like a phoenix out of the Assembly’s ashes:- It looks as if a new UNITARY Authority will emerge using the name “West Glamorgan”. It will not be, as the local press / media claim falsely to be the return of the old one – thank goodness as that former County was very anti Welsh language. In all likelihood the new “West Glamorgan Unitary Council” will follow the lines of the present Swansea and Neath Port Talbot Councils and go along in a rather neutral manner on Welsh language issues – thankfully not hostile – but neither over supportive. Welsh will become just a non priority issue. The main issue in unification in this area will be “Municipal Housing”. The Government and the Labour Assembly policy directive a few years ago was to hive off all Council Housing into sorts of Housing Trusts. The Swansea Council, then led by Independents and Lib Dems, went along with that directive and held a referendum of all Tenants (but not all residents) to see if they wanted to opt out. The Swansea Labour Party (which was working then in an unofficial coalition with Plaid Cymru) opposed their own Labour Assembly directive, and campaigned to get opting out stopped. Swansea Tenants then voted to keep all Council Housing under Council control. However, in Neath Port Talbot the Tenants voted to get out of Council control having been urged to vote “out” by Labour there to support the Labour Assembly directive. Now this will pose a very serious problem for the new West Glamorgan Unitary Council – with half the Tenants out and half the Tenants in. Nobody is mentioning that issue in the area concerned. Can anyone explain how that Municipal Housing issue will be resolved?

  19. Earthshaker

    Good job everyone’s talking about Local Government reorganization because there nothing else happening affecting Wales right now, even civil servants who job is to carry out Minster’s wishes laugh when this is brought up. It will only change when it suits Labour’s interests i thought everyone knew that.

    Anyway off topic but something that i’m sure you and your readers would be interested in an independent Scottish Politics fact checking blog called ‘Ferret Fact Service’ in its first year it found the Tories in Scotland are the biggest liars with only 12% of their output being true and 88% being lies and half truths. The SNP are the most truthful with 75% of their stuff being true, https://theferret.scot/ferret-fact-service-fact-checking-numbers/

    Something similar is desperately needed for welsh politics to expose the Labour Party and Welsh Government corruption, lies and dirty tricks.

  20. What is known about Tai Tarian possibly operating outside of Neath Port Talbot?
    Why did the NPT Homes name change take place? Is it more than just a name change?
    Do they have more than one name / branch? Just curious !

    1. It’s amazing how many housing associations and third sector outfits give themselves Welsh names, and then operate in a way that can often be described as anti-Welsh. It’s obviously done as a form of ‘disguise’, in the hope of fooling people.

  21. adarynefoedd

    Size matters when delivering very expensive high cost services in Social Services particularly. A hit from an ultra expensive placement for say secure accommodation for a young person can be taken much better by a large council. The alternative is to transfer SS to WAG or to Health but this is not necessarily a happy option for service users as most are not ‘ill’. Though there are some exceptions to the bigger=better rule, there are some very unhappy examples of small LAs struggling with the basics. I hope that Powys is placed in a larger Council – however it is difficult to see a sensible ‘marriage’. (? Dyfed-Powys?)

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