Welsh Government report slams their own local government policy

2011 Gorffenaf 29 10:24 AM
Cyhoeddwyd yn wreiddiol gan Peter Black a Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Gorllewin De Cymru

An independent report commissioned by the Welsh Government to assess its policy towards local Councils has concluded that although Ministers are focusing on the right issues they are failing to deliver their own priorities in practice.

The report, which has been produced by the Centre for Local and Regional Government Research in Cardiff Business School looks at the three themes of collaboration,

citizen engagement and central-local relations, which are at the heart of the Welsh Government's local government policy.

On collaboration they say that 'both local public service providers and the Welsh Government, have settled for relatively small wins - in the form of improved dialogue and joining up - while failing to advance the big issues of strategic coherence and economies of scale.' They suggest that the Welsh Government should take decisive steps to safeguard the provision of strategic services either through local government reorganisation, the establishment of regional authorities or the re-allocation of functions between local and national government. They say that collaboration needs to be designed into the governance of Councils, rather than encouraged as a desirable.

They also criticise the Welsh Government's policy on citizen engagement as ambiguous, saying that there is no clarity how people should be involved in decision making, and are critical of the nature of relations between Central and Local Government. They say: There is a danger that departments rely unthinkingly on 'the way which we've already done it round here'. There are, as a result, instances of excessive prescription when perhaps there should be more autonomy, competition for grants when a standard formula may be more appropriate, and partnership in performance management when either hierarchy or competition might prove more transparent and effective.'

Commenting on the report, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson, Peter Black said that it exposes Welsh Government policy as a mess: "It seems to me that what this report is saying is that Ministers know what they want to achieve but have no idea how to deliver it. They are floundering around looking for a holy grail when they should be showing leadership. When they do try to take a lead they focus on the wrong priorities and often contradict their own and the policies of other Ministers.

"More worryingly, it is my impression that the Welsh Government has retreated into silos

more than any other time since the Welsh Assembly was founded. There appears to be no joined up thinking across Government as to how to deal with local councils and that is leaving Councillors in limbo. There needs to be better partnership working between all levels of government but if we are to achieve that then there has to be coherence and clarity at the top as to the direction of travel and how we are going to arrive at our destination. That is clearly missing."

END

Note for editors: The report, "Learning to Improve: An Independent Assessment of the Welsh Government's Policy for Local Government" can be found at http://wales.gov.uk/docs/dsjlg/research/110718learnimproverep2en.pdf

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