Monday, March 05, 2012

Cut back on bureaucracy and allow local authorities greater freedom to deliver public services – Peter Black

Welsh Liberal Democrats at the Spring Conference 2012 in Cardiff have voted overwhelmingly in support of a motion calling for more freedom for Local Authorities.

Welsh Liberal Democrats have long believed that public services are better delivered when they are managed by the appropriate level of government. In contrast to the Labour-led Welsh administration Liberal Democrats think that when it comes to local services, Local Authorities should have greater control. Councils should be able to protect local interests and services without unnecessary restrictions and interference from the Welsh Government.

Peter Black, Shadow Minister for Local Government, commented:

“Current bureaucracy imposed by the Labour Welsh Government is hampering hard-working councillors across Wales in their attempts to deliver change for their communities. Under Labour’s watch local services have been eroded and often withdrawn.

“Despite spending restrictions and many needless bureaucratic requirements enforced on Local Authorities by the Welsh Government, Liberal Democrat run councils have still been able to provide excellent and efficiently run public services while maintaining low council tax increases.

“In the Welsh Liberal Democrat run council of Swansea, a cut of 20% in special responsibility allowances paid to councillors has saved the council £1million over the last eight years. This has allowed the council to freeze tax for 2012/13. Under Labour the average yearly council tax rise was a hefty 7.6% compared to the Liberal Democrat administration’s modest average increase of 3.4% per annum. That constitutes a saving of more than £3,100 for families living in an average Band D property in Swansea and it’s the same story across many over Welsh Liberal Democrat run councils. In Cardiff the average annual increase in council tax has been just 2.7% compared to 11% a year under the previous Labour administration.

“The Welsh Government needs to cut back on bureaucracy and allow Local Authorities greater freedom to deliver public services efficiently.”

Welsh Liberal Democrats have also called for the implementation of single transferable vote for local elections which will provide a fairer democratic system than first-past-the-post.

Unlike the Labour Welsh Government, who recently announced that elections on Anglesey would be postponed for a year despite calls for democratic renewal of the council in May, Welsh Liberal Democrats believe in fair and democratically accountable government.

Mr Black added:

“There is no convincing reason to delay Council elections on Anglesey until May 2013 when, in the interests of democracy, it would be appropriate to hold elections along with the rest of the country in May 2012.

“If there is any Council in need of democratic renewal, it is Ynys Mon. Despite huge cuts proposed by the Commissioners, currently running the council, their budget will not be subject to democratic approval despite it having far reaching consequences.

“Unlike Labour, a Liberal Democrat Welsh Government would have allowed elections to go ahead on Anglesey this May.

“Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to fair and accountable democracy in a way that other parties are not. Our policy for electoral change at a local authority level represents a fairer system of government which amplifies the voice of the electorate.”

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