Thomas Bridge 05 February 2015

Conwy slams ‘disrespectful’ language of Welsh Government in merger spat

A Welsh council has slammed a government vision for local government reorganisation, branding it ‘disrespectful’ and a ‘threat to local democracy’.

Conwy CBC’s cabinet said proposals held in the Welsh Government’s new Local Government White Paper would ‘undermine local councillors’ and appear to recommend ‘a free-for-all in terms of vital service delivery’.

The town hall accused minister for public services, Leighton Andrews, of lacking confidence in local cabinets and using ‘disrespectful and intemperate language’ to ‘categorise and denigrate councillors’.

Launching the white paper on Tuesday, Andrews said plans for ‘a new deal for local government in Wales’ were based on ‘a smaller number of stronger councils’

He added: ‘This is about reform not reorganisation. It is about rebuilding councils from the inside out, rebuilding trust and confidence in local government and a new relationship between councils and the people they serve.

‘We will ensure value for money by cutting the cost of politics and management in local government, ensuring councillors reflect the diversity in their communities and ensuring the culture in local government is open to challenge and has involving and supporting its communities as its core value.’

However Conwy CBC said Andrews’ language was ‘unhelpful’ and appeared to be ‘intended to undermine’ the work of local authorities. The council added that the plans ‘attack the fundamental principle of devolution of power’.

Conwy’s cabinet also rejected the support shown to the white paper by the Welsh Government Association (WLGA), claiming it was not consulted on the response.

While Cllr Bob Wellington CBE, leader of the WLGA said there was ‘much to support’ in the white paper’, he also called for ‘consistency across public services in Wales and equal treatment within the democratic sphere. The WLGA wants to see the difficult role of councillors properly valued’.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘We are consulting on the white paper and welcome any views. The Minister has said clearly that he values the work elected members do.

‘The proposals in the white paper set out a clear vision for local government, where councillors can be fully representative of their communities and deliver a more open, accountable and effective local government.

‘We look forward to hearing comments from anyone with a view before the consultation closes on the 28th April.’

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