Friday 2 September 2011

Dog's Breakfast

Unsurprising news from the Welsh Government that they want something short of full reorganisation of local government, meaning that the 22 Councils stay but they should form six collaboratives in order to manage education and (important to mental health) social care. More here.

In spite of my rude headline I am quite sympathetic to the Government which has to deal with what's there now. Everybody agrees that the present system is completely unworkable (like the old NHS set-up with 22 LHBs - you have to pinch yourself to believe we had such a system) but if you change it then it'll cost a lot and everybody stops delivering while the musical chairs game is played out over two or three which point it becomes clear that we still haven't got it right...

As an aside it should be pointed out that unlike the NHS botch this local government system wasn't the fault of a devolved government but rather of the UK Government in 1996. But it's there.

Hafal, always coming from a vigorous consumer position on such matters, was vocal from an early stage about the NHS structure - indeed we opposed its establishment all those years ago correctly predicting that it would prove inefficient if not unworkable. How little pleasure we took in being right!

I'm not sure whether Hafal will take a position on this quasi-reorganisation but for my part I would offer an alternative based on our experience that consumers of health and social services are (i) not interested in local politicians determining how such services should be delivered differently in their area (indeed they prefer uniform and consistent services across Wales) and (ii) have no strong feelings that health and social care should be provided by separate organisations (indeed they are driven to distraction trying to deal with two separate organisations).

On that basis my suggestion would be to keep the present councils but restrict their work to something like the old pre-1996 district councils' function; not my bag but perhaps run education on an all Wales basis but devolving wherever possible to local schools where these show competence; fully merge health and social services along the new LHB lines; and stop paying councillors other than expenses and return to a voluntarist approach to local government.

We are constantly being told that certain "accepted" things can no longer be afforded. I wonder if it is affordable (or was ever justified or supported by the public) to pay politicians below the all-Wales level in a country of just three million (half the population of Yorkshire)?


This word "collaborative", often these days transmuted into a noun, is getting used a lot. No doubt some "collaboratives" are a great idea but we should always be suspicious of institutions which defensively describe themselves in ways you can't easily disagree with - who can argue against setting up something "collaborative"?

Although on reflection it might be refreshing to set up an "uncollaborative" which worried less about talking and negotiating internally but instead got on with the job.