Looking outside of Wales

Welsh Government ministers say that they want to reduce the number of local authorities in Wales from 22 to 8 in order to reduce political and administrative costs. There is no evidence that administrative costs are reduced by increasing the size of a local authority. The recent KPMG report to Welsh Government indicated that as a percentage of the total budget Cardiff, our largest local authority, has the third highest administrative costs in Wales.

The proposed reduction of local authorities is based on an early 20th century orthodoxy that large scale, centralised organisations were the way to modernity. It was a view shared by Henry Ford and Joseph Stalin. As for driving down the cost of politics, Francisco Franco achieved that very successfully.

In the 21st century most people outside Wales recognise that success is achieved through relatively small scale organisations keeping close to their citizens and customers and working together as necessary to achieve shared objectives. Active political participation is celebrated rather than lamented.

If only Wales would learn from a country like Denmark which has a population not much greater than ours- 5.6 million. The Danes went through a decade of discussion to reform their public services in 2008. At the end of that process they established 98 local authorities with an average population of 58,000. In Denmark their local authorities provide all the services of a Welsh local authority plus community based health care and a responsibility to ensure the local supply of gas, electricity and water.

Welsh Government should pause and look elsewhere at other successful local government systems before driving us into the last century.

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