The Williams Report is pushing Wales into the dead end of being the most centralised country in Europe with fewer local authorities per head of population than anywhere else. This ever more hierarchical Wales will be less enterprising and innovative. Citizens will sink into a sullen passivity, distrusting each other and all forms of collective endeavour.
Fortunately the Welsh Local Government Association representing the local authorities of Wales is offering the Welsh Government a sensible, effective and low cost alternative to this ill considered local government reorganisation.
It is recognised that there is a small but important range of activities which are best done on a geography smaller than Wales but larger than any individual local authority:
– we need transport planning and economic promotion in regions that combine cities with their wider hinterland
– we need to commission specialist health and social care services on a regional basis
– we need to procure Energy from Waste plants with populations of around a million
– we need specialist school improvement support teams working across regions.
Ironically the ten local authorities proposed by Williams will be too small to undertake these tasks.
The WLGA is proposing that the Welsh Assembly legislates to create four Combined Local Authorities with statutory responsibilities to undertake these tasks. The Combined Authorities would be accountable to the existing local authorities as well as being subject to oversight by the Welsh Government.
That’s it! Problem solved. We retain local authorities which are rooted in communities but we also ensure a capacity to undertake regional tasks. Of course it is not new; throughout Europe genuinely local authorities combine to perform regional tasks.