Friday, November 24, 2006

Sorry Sue. I'm not convinced.

The biggest political issue of the week has been the Assembly Government's response to the Beecham Review about how to improve the delivery of public services in Wales. It was the main issue on both Waterfront and Dragon's Eye last night.
I'm usually in thrall to the measured and consensual approach of the Local Government and Finance Minister, Sue Essex but in this instance I am not convinced. In fact, I am instinctively suspicious and verging on the hostile to what I see as an attempt in 'incorporate' Local Government into the Assembly Government. Judging by the 'rowing back' we saw on TV last night from the excellent WLGA boss, Steve Thomas it looks as if I am not alone in my suspicions. I was also pleased that our man, Melding was not diving in for a cheap headline on TV last night. I am not even sure that the voice that the Government had put up, Leighton Andrews looked wholly convinced himself.
The problem for me is that no-one can possibly argue with the principle. Looking for ways of persuading all providers of public services to work together and coordinate is obviously common sense. And there is a superficial attraction in creating a forum comprised of all providers to discuss things with each other. Sue Essex makes it sound so innocent. The issue is what these 'Local Service Boards' will become and what control they will have over local councils. And then we have the overarching 'big brother' Unit within the Assembly Government itself which is to be set up.......... to do what?
And there is much talk of 'equalisation' and this change removing the post-code lottery as far as public services are concerned. I'm always suspicious of these fine sounding phrases which are another way of saying "You must not improve because it will show that everyone else is not performing". No Sue, on this occassion, I am not being hoodwinked by your soft and gentle words. As writing this post I have made up my mind, provisionally anyway. These ideas of yours are poison as far as local democracy is concerned.

PS. The best comment on TV last night was from Sue Essex when she said " You don't have to be big to be a good performer". It was just after I had read about the retirement of Ian Thorpe, the greatest swimmer of all time, who was reported to have size 17 feet!!

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