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Agenda item

Regional Working and the White Paper ‘Reforming Local Government: Resilient and Renewed’

Decision:

(a)       That the Council shares a draft response to the White Paper with Group Leaders before making a formal response; and

 

(b)       That the Council notes the current arrangements for regional working in North Wales.

Minutes:

The Chief Executive introduced a report on the White Paper published by Welsh Government (WG) which was a statement of intent for the future of local government in Wales to replace the earlier Local Government (Wales) Bill of the previous WG.  He gave a presentation covering the following areas:

 

·         background

·         over-riding points

·         White Paper contents

·         critique of the White Paper

·         reminder of what we said in response to the last Bill

·         Part 2: Regional Working

·         Part 3: Voluntary Mergers

·         Part 4: Local Leadership

·         Part 5: Leading Localities

·         Part 6: Community Councils

·         Part 7: Elections and Voting

·         other proposals

 

The Chief Executive commended the positive working relationship with the current Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Local Government.  On the White Paper, he shared concerns on the questionable mix of issues, the lack of detail and absence of funding necessary to support resilience and sustainability in local government.  Members’ views would be collated within the draft response and shared prior to submission by the deadline of 11 April 2017.

 

Councillor Aaron Shotton described the provisions within the White Paper as far-reaching.  In acknowledging the need for different ways of working and appropriate regional collaboration, he gave a reminder of the Council’s significant progress and stated the importance of achieving the right balance between regional working and localism.  Whilst he supported a uniform approach to election voting systems, he spoke against the idea of future regionalisation of housing.  To enable an informed debate including newly elected Members, he felt that the Council should seek an extension to the consultation deadline.

 

Councillor Owen Thomas commented on the importance of progress on the Northern Powerhouse and BT broadband programme to strengthen the local economy.  The Chief Executive gave a brief update on the positive development of the regional growth strategy for North Wales and the proposed North East Wales metro system.

 

Councillor Mike Peers supported the suggested extension to the consultation deadline.  On the provisions of the White Paper, he called for more details behind the Joint Planning Boards and referred to the environmental impact from the movement of vehicles between counties to deliver joint working on waste.  He pointed out that additional resources were necessary to address Consultation Question 6 and sought rationale behind the aim to seek ‘a more diverse range’ of councillors, also commenting that surgeries should be replaced by more modern means of communication.  He added that more funding from WG would help to reduce ‘unnecessary burdens’ and that the lack of focus on cross-border collaborative working did not recognise Flintshire’s position.  In response to comments, the Chief Executive gave clarification on the four terms used for the current economic partnerships shown on the map which showed areas under WG control.  He also pointed out that funding for the North Wales growth strategy was reliant on cross-border working.

 

Councillor Arnold Woolley spoke in support of the critique of the White Paper and the proposed deadline extension.  He felt that WG had not given any indication of the best method of governance locally, regionally and nationally and that more clarity was needed on the delivery of cost savings.  He expressed concerns about the negative effect of continued collaboration on localism and on the role of elected Members in representing constituents, adding that any limitations on Scrutiny would undermine that process.

 

Councillor Chris Bithell also shared the concerns about the impact of further collaboration in specific areas and the role of Scrutiny if this was to be done on a regional basis.  He supported a uniform approach to election voting but felt strongly that the proposals should be reconsidered and funding provided to achieve the right outcomes.

 

Councillor Richard Jones said that whilst the transfer of local decisions to a regional level could produce savings, this would not improve or strengthen services.  He spoke about the challenges in comprehending financial aspects of pooled collaborative projects and the ineffectiveness of a single regional Scrutiny committee.

 

Councillor Nancy Matthews supported the proposed extended deadline and a uniform election voting system whilst Councillor Gareth Roberts raised concerns about the implications of any imposed collaboration.

 

Councillor Derek Butler referred to significant progress made in establishing Flintshire’s position in the cross-border region.  He commended the critique of the White Paper given by the Chief Executive and supported the deferral of the consultation deadline until after the Election.

 

Councillor Tony Sharps gave examples of the effectiveness of previous partnerships involving the Council and urged WG to reconsider its proposals in order to protect localism.

 

The Chief Executive thanked Members for their support and agreed to share the draft response with Group Leaders for comment.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(a)       That the Council shares a draft response to the White Paper with Group Leaders before making a formal response; and

 

(b)       That the Council notes the current arrangements for regional working in North Wales.

Supporting documents:

 

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