I spoke about the Williams Commission report on local government reorganisation during a Plaid Cymru led a debate in the Senedd about public service and the importance of governance and delivery.
I believe the report completely underplays the costs involved. There is a fleeting mention of £100m yet Williams says nothing about the cost and impact on staff in terms of redundancy.
I have been privileged to have been an elected representative on five different levels, for over 39 years, and have witnessed during my lifetime two local government reorganisations.
But what is most important to the public is the quality of the services provided.
The report makes no reference to previous local government reorganisations in Wales and how, and if, they have led to improved services, or otherwise.
What the Williams report also does not mention, and what is critical, is that local authorities need to not only engage more with their staff, but treat them with respect, and not impose a pay freeze while making huge increases to senior executives’ pay. That is what has brought us, perhaps, to the mess that we are all in. Efficiency and performance in the public sector will never improve if staff are demoralised.
I mentioned the importance of town and community councils, which need to be merged, enlarged and made consistent across Wales. We need to empower our communities and it would enable many of those authorities to function properly, in a professional way, and to have a decent budget.
Plaid would like to see full-scale reform of that particular community layer of government.
During First Minister’s questions last week, I raised the issue of the support Plaid Cymru’s call for a Disability Commissioner for Wales has had from disabled people, families and campaign and pressure groups who speak on behalf of those with disabilities.
A Commissioner would ensure that services for disabled children and young people are consistently improved and that we have an impartial advocate to monitor the services.
I was very surprised to hear the Minister for Communities state that there is no call from the major disability groups for a Commissioner considering last year Disability Cymru, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Scope and SNAP Cymru all gave my office their backing in principle for the idea. It would then give people a sense of belonging to that particular area.