A few weeks ago the Williams Report on Public Service Delivery in Wales concluded that we would be better off with half as many local authorities in Wales – 11 local authorities rather than 22. The leaders of our political parties in the Welsh Assembly have been tripping over each other to offer support for this direction of travel and there is every danger that we will be rushed into this reorganisation with no real evidence to support the proposed changes.
Academic researchers from across the globe have tested the evidence on whether we would be better off with bigger local authorities. No such evidence exists. The assumption that costs are reduced by having bigger local authorities, fewer councillors, fewer senior managers is not borne out by international evidence. The assumption that performance is better in bigger local authorities is not borne out by the evidence in Wales, the UK or elsewhere.
Why therefore are we rushing down this road? My own theory is that there are members of an elite in Wales, hovering around the bars and cafes of Cardiff Bay, who have no sense of place or community. In their own sad, rootless lives they resent that sense of local belonging that characterises the rest of Wales. They dismiss the rest of us as parochial, lacking their strategic vision. They want to put us in our place and take away our local councils.
We need to challenge this rush towards less local government. The aim of this blog is to make that challenge. Watch this space!