Agenda item



(a)       That the corporate response set out at Appendix A for submission to Welsh Government be adopted; and


(b)          That the collective response of the Welsh Local Government Association attached at Appendix B be supported.




The Chief Executive introduced a report to invite a Council response to the Welsh Government White Paper.


            He provided a detailed presentation, with the main features being as follows:


·         The future for Wales

·         The future for local government

·         The White Paper: critique

·         The White Paper: a response

·         Building a ‘vision’

·         A vision: our purpose and role

·         A vision: our value added

·         Financing the future


In referring to the response from the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), the Leader of the Council indicated that it included representations from Flintshire County Council on the White Paper.  He concurred with the comments of the Chief Executive and felt that the White Paper included many ‘red herrings’.  He expressed significant concern that an opportunity to undertake discussions on localism had been missed but added that a vision that rewarded Councils that worked well and took on extra was appropriate.  The Leader spoke of decentralisation in England and commented on the need for a model to shape the local economy.  He hoped that the WLGA response provided assurance to Members and that the consultation would promote discussions on the areas of concern.  He added that the County Council response should be read in conjunction with the WLGA response and he asked Members to support the response.  


In supporting the comments of the Leader, Councillor Alex Aldridge referred to the arrogance of the language of devolution and expressed significant concern about the comments of Leighton Andrews, the Minister for Public Services which he felt were unacceptable.  He also said that no reasons had been given about why the voluntary mergers offered elsewhere in Wales had failed.  Dialogue had consistently been sought on the issue of change but requests had been rejected.  Councillor Paul Shotton commented on transition costs and queried how they would be funded. 


Councillor Robin Guest felt that an opportunity to discuss local government had been lost and that a review should commence with a blank sheet of paper not with a White Paper without proper debate and consultation.  He felt that there was a need to take the best approach for North Wales and  that discussions on the delivery of local services such as the interaction with health and emergency services should be undertaken.  Under the section on ‘Connecting with Communities’, Councillor Guest felt that the passporting of a proportion of business rates to local authorities and Town & Community Councils should be considered.  He added that it was difficult for Town & Communities to maintain towns as funding was only received from Council Tax not business rates.  On the theme of ‘Renewing Democracy’, Councillor Guest felt that it was appropriate that any reforms of local government should firstly look at the role of Councillors, then at the number of Councillors required and finally at the appropriate allowance. 


Councillor Tony Sharps agreed with the comments of the Chief Executive and the Leader of the Council.  He spoke of monies that had been spent by Welsh Government to benefit South Wales, and queried why it was wrong to retain 22 councils in Wales rather than the suggested reductions to 11 or 7 authorities.  Councillor Sharps highlighted statistics from the Office of National Statistics which reflected the performance of Wrexham County Borough Council.  He did not feel that merging with Wrexham County Borough Council was appropriate and he added that he was very proud of Flintshire County Council and what it had achieved.  He hoped that mergers would not come to fruition and that Councils, particularly those in North Wales, would not be required to merge. 


In welcoming the presentation from the Chief Executive, Councillor Chris Bithell felt WG did not have a clear idea about the future of local government.  He spoke of requests for mergers by Ministers, either voluntary or compulsory, and said that some Councils had put forward proposals to merge but these had been rejected by WG.  He commented on unelected Assembly Members and indicated that the White Paper did not make any reference to how any reforms would be funded.  He felt that larger wards, which would result in more responsibilities with fewer Councillors would put people off from applying to become a Councillor and would not encourage diversity.  


Councillor Mike Peers spoke of WG being based in Cardiff but with international offices in other parts of the World which had seen an increase in funding from £250k to £1m.  He applauded the work undertaken with local government and the WLGA to provide a response.  He added that adequate funding for the delivery of local services was important but WG had failed in this respect.  He commented on the vision for local government referred to in the Council’s response and queried how local government could deliver fully funded services to local people without adequate funding.  


Councillor Hilary Isherwood expressed significant concern about the comments made by Councillor Bithell which she felt had been aimed at her husband.  She spoke of Aneurin Bevan and of Leighton Andrews and expressed her thoughts about the running of WG.  Councillor Gareth Roberts spoke of the role of the Minister for Public Services and indicated that it would not be possible for Councillors to represent more residents if there were fewer Elected Members.  He also commented on the proposals for Councillors to have to retire after 25 years and highlighted those at Flintshire County Council who would be affected if this was currently the practice.  He felt that a structure of unitary authorities would be appropriate based on the Williams Commission report rather than creating larger authorities by merging local councils the size of Flintshire and Wrexham together. 


Councillor Carol Ellis indicated that the White Paper did not refer to the benefits for the people that Councillors represented.  She referred to the creation of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and asked whether one authority for North Wales was being considered. 


The Leader of the Council said that a debate around the convention of the United Kingdom was important.  He spoke of sub-regional devolution and the importance of a united debate to contribute to other debates. 




(a)       That the corporate response set out at Appendix A for submission to Welsh Government be adopted; and


(b)          That the collective response of the Welsh Local Government Association attached at Appendix B be supported.



Supporting documents: