The controversial Williams Report suggests merging the Vale of Glamorgan with Cardiff
Penarth councillors clashed last night on proposals by the Welsh Assembly Government to re-organise local government in Wales – and specifically to merge the Vale of Glamorgan with Cardiff.
Under consideration at last night’s meeting of Penarth Town Council’s Policy Committee was a Welsh Government White Paper setting out the Welsh Assembly Government’s “initial thoughts” for local government in Wales for “the 21st Century and beyond” which proposes what is described as a “new relationship” with local communities.
Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) chaired the Policy Committee
Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) – in the chair – proposed he should draft a response to the white paper and let councillors have a copy to study over the summer recess unless councillors had any immediate comments .
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) pointed out that Penarth Council still did not know what the view of the Vale of Glamorgan Council was. Nothing had been published. [PDN Note: The Labour-controlled Vale Council does not want to publicly oppose the Labour-controlled Welsh Government]
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward)
Cllr Ernest pointed out that Welsh Government white paper said there were “several merger options” but had – in fact – only listed one option in the White Paper – the one which Cllr Ernest said ” I don’t like” which proposes merging the Vale of Glamorgan with Cardiff.
Cllr Ernest said he understood there had also been talk of merging the Vale of Glamorgan with Bridgend . He said “Maybe our Vale councillors are in a better position to speak to this than I am” (referring to the four “dual-hatted” councillors present who sit on Penarth Town Council and are also salaried members of the Vale of Glamorgan Council) . Cllr Ernest said Penarth Council “ought to have some guidance from the Vale if we are to answer this sensibly”.
He said “Cardiff is quite large enough to be a unitary authority on its own. It will be the best part of 500,000 in population with the net immigration into the city that is going on” . If the Welsh Government added the Vale to Cardiff that would add another 120,000 making a total population of 620,000 which , he said “would be totally out of scale with all the other local authorities in Wales”. Cllr Ernest said “I don’t think it would be doing Penarth any good by joining with Cardiff “
Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Cornerswell)
Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) – who is a twin-hatted councillor – said Cllr Ernest “had a right to his views on whether we should merge with Cardiff” but he wanted to draw attention to the paragraphs (i.e 47.48.49) in the white paper “which affect this council” . Cllr Wilson said Penarth Town Council should be focussing tonight on “community liaison” . He said “The place to discuss unitary authorities is in the unitary authority” .
Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines)
Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines), agreeing with Cllr Wilson, said “I profoundly disagree with Cllr Ernest”. He said “When the Williams Report was published the Vale of Glamorgan Conservative Association launched an on-line petition . This petition spoke against the Vale of Glamorgan joining Cardiff.” [PDN Note: The Welsh Government-commissioned "Williams Report" had made the original proposal to merge Cardiff and the Vale]
Cllr Rapier said that as of two days ago the response to that Conservative petition had been 104 signatures . “Now that doesn’t mean that only 104 people in the Vale of Glamorgan care whether we join with Cardiff or not . What it means is that only 104 people felt sufficiently informed. “
Cllr Rapier said that, speaking personally, this issue was one on which at the present time, he had no view. “I am not informed sufficiently” he said . He considered “the purpose of this document is so that those of us who are privileged to be elected can enhance the original report which is a very learned document – although we may disagree with it” .
First Minister Carwyn Jones (Labour)
Lesley Griffiths AM Local Government Minister for Wales
Cllr Rapier went on to say “ I respect the First Minister” [First Minister in the Welsh Government Carwyn Jones]. “I totally respect the position of the Local Government Minister [ Lesley Griffiths AM] . Everyone seems to want to exceed their salaries. No one seems to want the responsibilities” .
Cllr Rapier said Penarth Council should “only respond to the points which are relevant to the people who elected us. It is none of our business what the Vale of Glamorgan Council decides”.
Cllr Lis Burnett (Labour St Augustines)
Twin-hatted councillor Lis Burnett (Labour St Augustines) said “This town council is autonomous. This town council should not rely on the views of the Vale Council. There are a number of councillors – myself included – who sit in both councils”. Penarth Town Councillors should reflect upon the “issues affecting Penarth – separately to the issues affecting the Vale.” Some of those would overlap others would not. It was up to the town council to put in a submission on issues which directly affected Penarth. It would be a “wrong move” to “take guidance” from the Vale Council she said.
Cllr Ernest retorted that he was not suggesting the Town Council take guidance from the Vale – but he had an interest in hearing what the “official view” of the Vale was.
Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward)
Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said he did not think this was a political issue – however Cllr Ernest had been right to mention the issue because it was in the document. However Cllr Williams reminded members that at a seminar held for the benefit of town councillors it had been said [by Steve Thomas Chief Executive at Welsh Local Government Association ] that any merger would “not happen before the year 2020″.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines)
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Auguatines) said that if Penarth Council fell into what he called “the trap” of discussing district councils “then we are wasting the opportunity to develop Penarth Council” and “how this council can further enhance its contribution to the Penarth community” . “That” he said, “is what we should be devoting our time to”.
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward)
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said the council should concentrate on something it could actually choose rather than on something totally outside its purview.
Cllr Turner said a forthcoming motion at the One Wales conference summarised a response the council could put back to the White Paper. “It’s information we need really at this stage saying this is how we can enhance the way we work in Penarth”.
The White Paper and a form inviting responses from the public is on http://tinyurl.com/ls42jn9