Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Labour doesn't want experience on local councils

Considering that the Williams Commission proposals for fewer, larger councils will require virtually professional members, I found the headline news from Leighton Andrews' paper today contradictory. I don't agree with the creation of "super councils" as I have blogged before, but if we are to have them, they will require councillors with responsibility for larger geographical areas and council budgets, needing more travelling time and probably having to grasp more complex policy. In short, a long way from the volunteer spare-time servant of the community characterised in his interview on Radio Wales this afternoon. Increasing the turnover of councillors will put more power in the hands of permanent staff.

Peter Black is by no means an old man, but he is one of those who would lose his seat on Swansea City Council under the Andrews scheme. As Peter pointed out on that same "Good evening, Wales" programme, the difficulty of moving on superannuated and hidebound councillors is largely a Labour problem which the law should not be called upon to solve.

If Mr Andrews truly wants to reinforce the public service aspect of council membership, he should retain the existing council set-up while allowing authorities voluntarily to share services where necessary. He should legislate to go back to councillors' being paid an allowance to compensate for time off work, rather than being obliged to accept or reject a salary. He could also insist on councils holding all meetings outside normal working hours.

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