Divided opinions over Council merger report

Barry And District News: DIVIDED WE STAND: Concern over town welfare in light of suggested local government reforms DIVIDED WE STAND: Concern over town welfare in light of suggested local government reforms

PROPOSALS which could see the Vale of Glamorgan merge with Cardiff council has met with a mixed response with some fearing job cuts and a loss of local identity.

The massive shake-up, announced on Monday in the Williams Commission Review into Public Services Governance, could see the number of local authorities in Wales reduced from 22 to around 10.

Vale Council leader, Cllr Neil Moore said it would take time to go through the contents in the necessary detail and absorb its findings.

He said: “I am keen to stress the impact any potential reorganisation could have on the community, not least in terms of jobs, the cost of reorganisation and service disruption caused as a result.

“I have taken a keen interest in the review, but I have not argued for a full scale structural reorganisation and believe that is not necessary, affordable or required at this time.

“I recognise that opinions within local government across Wales will vary and there may be pressure for change, particularly where the austerity measures may challenge the sustainability of certain councils. This is certainly not the case in the Vale of Glamorgan.

“The report has profound implications for service delivery and for the local government workforce. It is therefore imperative that all stakeholders have as full a debate as possible before coming to any conclusions.

“Public services are major local employers and deliver services that enable individuals to lead healthy and fulfilled lives within sustainable communities. We have to ensure that we achieve the best for our communities and the proposals may not necessarily be the right way forward in its entirety.”

Vale MP Alun Cairns said the report raised real concerns locally.

He said: “Many residents already feel that the Vale cabinet is remote and out of touch. Being run from Cardiff will be even more difficult.

“These changes could undermine the integrity of the Vale of Glamorgan. We could be subsumed in the greater Cardiff.”

Vale AM Jane Hutt said the extensive report would be considered by all those in Welsh public services - as elected representatives, members of staff and by all those who use the services day to day.

She said: “I will be listening to all those who engage in the debate and discussions, feeding back views as we consider the way forward. At a time of continuing austerity and public service cuts it is vital that we look at all options to safeguard and improve our public services.”

Pride In Barry chairman Paul Haley said the group would welcome positive engagement in the next steps consultation to ensure the Barry community’s views were represented and the best outcome for Barry was achieved.

He said: “It will be a chance to explore potential new opportunities for the town, for example a greater link for the Barry beaches with Cardiff and additional image building and promotional events.”

FocusBARRY member and former Barry Town councillor, Dennis Harkus said the report was a good opportunity for the Welsh Government to put its local government house in order.

He said: “There is considerable evidence that we have too many politicians.

“However, I’m concerned that the baby (local accountability) doesn't get thrown out with the reorganisation bathwater so perhaps strengthening community councils is a way forward in this respect?

“There is much duplication with senior management, with salary levels and excessive exit packages just two problem areas. The Welsh Government must also force the new council to openly advertise top positions and recruit the best candidates instead of the usual process of ordaining individuals into these critically important posts.”

The proposals were published in the Williams Commission Review into Public Services Governance, announced on Monday (January 20, 2014).

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