Wales could show England the way to local government reform | Letters

John Harris called for a rethink on local democracy: here Mike Cuddy of One Voice Wales and Jeremy Beecham respond

John Harris is right to identify the potential of truly local government (The national calamity you won’t see on the front pages, Journal, 10 July).

Although Wales shares many of the same local government reform problems as England, town and community (parish) councils cover more than 90% of Wales, compared with less than 50% in England. In recognition of their potential the Welsh government has set up an independent review of the town and community council sector, which is due to report later this year.

The institutional infrastructure in Wales – a devolved nation where all principal authorities are unitary councils – is also somewhat simpler than that of England. Latterly we have had superimposed city deals – but working through councils themselves. So the heavy lifting that England would have to undertake in extending local councils comprehensively is not necessary.

We hope that this advantageous platform vis-a-vis England will prompt the review to recognise the role of the social grassroots in facing the 21st-century problems that John Harris highlights.

The representative body for local councils, One Voice Wales, in evidence to the review, has described the opportunity to really engage locally, providing leadership in making places, protecting and reshaping very local services or assets in danger of closure – and in general supporting local community planning. In short, empowered local councils with a degree of self-determination but working in partnership with principal councils, the third sector and the local community.
Mike Cuddy
Chair, One Voice Wales

• Jonathan Harris (The sad state of local government in England, Letters, 12 July) is wrong to claim that local government leaders “simply complain about funding in their own areas” and that Labour and Tory areas are not interested in each other’s needs.

The Local Government Association, of which I was the first chairman, has sought to argue the case for the whole of local government. For most of the past 14 years it has been Conservative-led, and its criticism of government policy has rarely been stronger.

Even more striking have been the protests of Tory councils joining their Labour counterparts in opposition to eight years of savage cuts to local budgets and the deliberate diminution of local government’s role.
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords, and member, Newcastle city council

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