Minister to unveil plan to 'rebuild councils from the inside out'

Leighton Andrews is setting out shake-up plans for local councils Photo: ITV News Cymru Wales

Term limits for councillors and a cut in pay for council leaders and cabinet members are expected to be among proposals for reforming local government published by the Welsh Government later.

Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews will launch a long-expected White Paper which will pave the way for the expected shake-up. He's expected to say the plans are about 'reform not reorganisation' although they will result in 'a smaller number of stronger councils.'

There's been pressure on the Welsh Government to take the lead on proposals to reform local government ever since the Williams commission recommended reducing the number of councils from the current 22 to between 10 and 12 in a report published over a year ago.

A previous call for voluntary mergers ended in controversy when Leighton Andrews rejected the only three proposals to have emerged.

Welsh Government sources say the White Paper won't focus exclusively on re-organisation and say not to expect a map of the future shape of local government in Wales. I understand it will contain proposals dealing with the many other challenges laid down in the Williams report which aren't about mergers. I'm told it'll be about 'leadership, delivery, diversity and re-balancing the responsibilities of local and national government.'

The Welsh Government hope that councillors will welcome the White Paper proposals because they'll result in less bureaucracy and more flexibility. But in return they'll face term limits and a cut in pay for leaders and cabinet members as part of the minister's stated intent to cut the cost of local government.

Leighton Andrews is due to launch the White Paper at the new base of the Gwent Archives in Ebbw Vale. The location has been chosen, says the Welsh Government, to highlight the 'activist nature' of councils in Wales. In his speech, he's expected to say:

The Gwent Archives’ magnificent new facility in the General Offices of the former steelworks in Ebbw Vale holds the minutes from meetings of the Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid Society. They show Councillor Aneurin Bevan and his colleagues seeking to put in place co-operative health solutions for their local community.

Their recorded minutes are a reminder that at its best, Local Government in Wales has always had an activist nature, engaging co-operatively with local communities to find collective solutions.

We want all our Councils to be activist Councils, engaged in delivering modern, accessible, high quality public services with their communities.

In this White Paper, we set out the terms of a new deal for local government in Wales, one based on a smaller number of stronger councils, which will result in national government in Wales setting a small number of clear national priorities.

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.

My role is to set the right framework to ensure local leadership can deliver for their communities. 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. This is about profound change in the way Councils work and deliver for their communities. Our vision is for stronger, more representative Local Government delivering, and accountable for, quality local services which meet the needs of local communities. The consultation opens today (3rd February) and will close on 28th April and I encourage anyone who would like their views known to engage in the process.

– Leighton Andrews AM, Public Services Minister

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