POSTED ON November 18, 2016
Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) Annual Conference 2016
The WLGA’s annual conference, held this year at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on 3 November, is one of the largest public sector events in Wales. It brings together senior figures from across Wales to explore key themes, attracting over 350 delegates and considerable media interest.
There was much to discuss. As well as the key challenges facing local government and the wider Welsh public sector, such as service reform and ongoing austerity, this year’s event also came in the wake of seismic changes to public policy following the UK’s vote to leave the EU.
Local Government Secretary Mark Drakeford received a very warm welcome from delegates. His decision to scrap proposals to reduce the 22 existing councils to eight or nine through a series of mergers has been very warmly received by the sector. Reform of local government in Wales remains likely, however there now appears to be greater consensus between the Welsh Government and local authorities about the building blocks of such reform. Local authorities are likely to remain as an essential democratic tier and the front door through which the citizens of Wales access public services. However, behind that front door, the Minister’s proposal is that some services will be organised and delivered on a regional basis, for example:
- City Regions for economic development, transport and land use planning
- Health Board areas for social care and education
A short second phase of detailed discussions with partners and stakeholders is now commencing with the aim of achieving a consensus, before Christmas, regarding the appropriate regional footprints for specified services, in advance of formal public consultation and ahead of council elections in May. No doubt, tough decisions lie ahead.
Two workshops held at the conference were of particular relevance to work that Local Partnerships are currently engaged with in Wales and generated much debate:
- The consideration of alternative delivery models for the provision of local authority services including, community ownership models, social enterprises, local authority wholly owned companies and joint ventures
- Local energy supply, smart energy deployment and local energy delivery including an interesting presentation from Bridgend Council regarding their heat networks – projects that Local Partnerships is supporting through the Welsh Government’s Green Growth Wales programme, where we are tasked with supporting public sector bodies across Wales to accelerate and de-risk the delivery of a pipeline of renewable energy generation and energy-saving projects by providing targeted commercial and project management input
Local Partnerships works with the Welsh Government to deliver Green Growth Wales. The key objective of the programme is to support sustainable development in Wales, by increasing green investment, reducing carbon emissions, expanding the green economy and sustaining the growth of green jobs.