Labour MP's views disputed by Vale Council leader

THE LABOUR Vale Council leader has expressed ‘dismay’ at a Labour MP’s calls for bosses to "pick up the baton" and lead in local government reform.

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith said councils should be trusted to drive any possible mergers.

The Welsh Government Williams commission, in January, recommended the number of councils should be cut from 22 to 12 or fewer, but a meeting of the full Vale Council earlier this year saw all but one councillor oppose the proposal.

Mr Smith said: “It has to be driven by local government itself because that's the way in which we will end up with the best fit between local services and local people”

"It has to be driven by local government itself because that's the way in which we will end up with the best fit between local services and local people," he said.

"I'm saying to local government leaders: 'It's up to you, pick up the baton now and challenge yourselves to renew and refresh yourselves'."

"They need to be trusted to get on with it, but they need to get on with it."

Vale council leader, Cllr Neil Moore said he was “dismayed” at the unnecessary intervention and the Shadow Welsh Secretary’s comments on the potential for local government reorganisation.

Cllr Moore said: “I am disappointed that the Shadow Welsh Secretary has intervened in the debacle, in relation to the potential for local government reorganisation.

“I do not believe there to be a wholesale agreement within Wales for a reorganisation.

“I do accept there may be a need to reconsider some issues that exist in some areas. Owen Smith’s suggestion that council leaders need to ‘pick up the baton’ and get on with voluntary mergers is simply unreasonable, particularly here in the Vale of Glamorgan.”

He said the proposed map was based on simplistic lines - health and police boundaries and European convergence funding meaning the Vale Council could only merge with Cardiff.

“I do not consider that to be a reasonable or practical merger,” he said.

“It would create a huge authority of almost half a million people - by far the biggest in Wales. It ignores the fact that the two councils are completely different in both culture, environment and ethos and would not in my opinion improve services for the people of the Vale of Glamorgan.”

He said he was pleased Owen Smith had confirmed councils should be trusted and agreed if any mergers eventually occurred they should do so through collaboration rather than imposition, as appears to be the Welsh Government’s stance on the issue.

He added: “There are fundamental questions to be answered if any reorganisation is to take place relating to costs, both in terms of job losses and the financial cost of such mergers. Where is the money going to come from? What savings would result? It would also disrupt the work that councils carry out with ever decreasing budgets. This is not the time for a wholesale slaughter of local government, either voluntary or otherwise.

“The Vale of Glamorgan Council is well placed to continue to deliver services in its current form but will continue to collaborate where services as it is and will continue to collaborate with others where necessary to deliver the best services and that will include working with neighbouring councils such as Bridgend and Cardiff as well as others. Imposing changes because of lines on a map is not the answer.

“I sincerely believe that the proposals are unwarranted, certainly not financially viable and ill-conceived.”

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