Normal Mouth has a weekly column in the Welsh Magazine Golwg. After the mag has been printed Normal posts the original post that Golwg has translated on his blog. His latest offering can be seen here.
It appears that Normal doesn't do the post heading! He has had difficulty with finding a heading for his current pre-translation!
Under the title Too Many Councils? Time to Face the Truth Normal makes the case in Golwg that there are too many councils in Wales. I agree. Thirteen county councils were good enough for almost 700 years. There may have been an argument for change, but the change should have resulted in fewer rather than more councils.
Normal makes the fair point that Kent County Council has a similar population to that of Wales. However Kent is not an "Unitary Authority" it contains 12 city, borough and district councils, not too far off the 13 "traditional" Welsh councils!
Kent also has over 500 community and parish councils.
I agree with Normal that the number of county councils should be reduced. My personal opinion is that we should have between five and eight county councils, reducing the number of councils to a sensible level would save a lot of money.
However I disagree with Normal on one critical point. Normal ends his column by saying The Assembly appears eager to acquire new powers from above. It is time it looked under the stairs as well. To put it in local speak the ability to act should be taken from Conwy and given to Cardiff!
That is a non starter!
One of the best arguments that the "antis" made in 1979 and 1999 was that "devolution" = "centralisation" this argument has been proved. It is a truism that my local parish council was responsible for more aspects of local services in 1880 than the Assembly is responsible for today!
The nationalist heartland voted NO in 1979, because it feared that all would be centered in Cardiff. The Yes argument in these parts was basically one that felt that, after Thatcher, Cardiff centered government would be better than London centered government.
The fact that the Cardiff centered government can find 13 million pounds to save its local concert hall, but it cant find a piddling million quid to save the biggest employer in Conwy, makes Cardiff feels further away from Conwy than it was 10 years ago and it feels much further away than even London or Brussels are.
The general feeling in those parts of Wales to the north of the Beacons and to the West of Barry is that Devolution has devolved bugger all, it has centralised everything in Cardiff.
The Assembly, as it acquires more powers from above, should look under the stairs, as Normal suggests, but it should do so in order to give careful consideration to the powers that can be sent downstairs!
Any referendum for more powers for Cardiff, that doesn't ensure that local government in the North and the West is strengthened will fail, and will deserve to fail!