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Wales: Local Government reorganisation is a serious threat to jobs and services
Mark Evans, branch secretary Carmarthenshire County Unison and member of Unison Local Government Service Group (personal capacity)
Cutting the number of councils in Wales from 22 to eight or nine would cut the cost of local government, Leighton Andrews, the Minister for Public Services in the Welsh Assembly government, was quoted as saying.
This is precisely the concern of Unison and other local government workers. It is estimated that 15,000 jobs could be lost as a result of local government reorganisation in Wales.
The Welsh Assembly Labour government claims that reorganisation (which would take Wales back to pre-1996 arrangements, with far bigger councils) will save money over time.
Unison full-time officers who usually act as apologists for the Labour government when it has meekly passed on Con-Dem cuts, have under pressure from local government Unison branches been forced to call on the Assembly government to finance reorganisation in a way that protects public services.
This has to be a line in the sand because otherwise reorganisation will be a means of inflicting more cuts.
Smokescreen for cuts
Leighton Andrews has claimed that the case for fewer local authorities is 'compelling'. No doubt this was claimed by others when councils were made smaller and more numerous in 1996.
While socialists are not opposed to reorganisation in principle and we support the need to reduce Chief Executive Officer pay and for elected councillors to receive only genuine expenses, claims that reorganisation is about these issues are a smokescreen for the real objective - further cuts to jobs and services.
These proposals, if implemented, would reduce democratic accountability.
The Williams commission report on which Leighton Andrew's proposals are in part based provides little in the way of research or evidence to justify his proposals. The Williams commission warned against an eight-council structure, arguing that 'gains' from mergers would be 'jeopardised or lost'.
The report also warned that larger councils would struggle to meet diverse local needs or maintain fair democratic representation in such areas.
These proposals threaten our jobs, services and working class communities and should be opposed and campaigned against by Unison, other trade unions, anti-cuts groups and working class communities.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 16 June 2015 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.