- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Category: Assembly Speeches
This motion is the first I can remember to discuss public services as a whole, as opposed to dealing with individual service areas. Every Wednesday, one silo after another has been discussed without looking at public services as a whole, so I really welcome this.
For local government, the challenge is to be large enough to effectively run the major services, but be small enough to be local rather than creating a layer of sub-regional government. When I first became active in politics in the late 1970s, the structure of public services in Wales was very different to those we have today. County councils were the basic building blocks of local services, and further education colleges, polytechnics, institutes of higher education and the fire service were all directly run by county councils, whilst services such as probation and health were organised on a county basis with direct county councillor involvement. Beneath the county council were district councils, which provided the bulk of local services, including almost all public housing. Some county councils actually organised themselves—their services—on a district basis; Mid Glamorgan was a classic example of that.
Today, we have a far more fragmented public service, with 22 unitary authorities replacing the former county and district councils, with a proposal to reduce that number back to the original eight or nine—a case of back to the future. Further education colleges, institutes of higher education and the polytechnics of Wales have all left local authority control. The fire service is currently split across Wales into three, and these are controlled by local authority joint boards. Can I say that, for those living in Swansea, being in the same joint board as Machynlleth doesn’t work for us?