Message from Darren Mepham: update on local government reform and health boundary changes

Date published: 20/07/2017

"You may have seen that Mark Drakeford AM delivered a statement late yesterday afternoon in which he discussed local government reform.

"He set out three areas that he intends to focus on – the form and function of town and community councils, changes to the local government electoral system with a lower voting age of 16, and mandatory regional collaboration between councils.

"All of these will have a significant impact upon us and our communities here in Bridgend County Borough, and I am sure that we will play an active part over coming months in engaging with these proposals. 

"I’d like to focus on the part that has the most obvious potential to impact on how we all work, and that is the mandatory regional collaboration - in particular, what it means for our relationship with colleagues who work in health.

"For a long time, we have made the point that Bridgend County Borough is unusual in having to operate while looking both east and west at the same time – west for our collaborative work with the health board through the Western Bay partnership, and east for our collaborations on education, regulatory services and now the Cardiff City Deal. 

"We are regarded as an effective and valued partner on all of these fronts, but looking in two directions is inherently unsustainable and makes it more difficult to truly integrate working across the economy, health, education etc.

"In the White Paper published earlier this year, the Cabinet Secretary acknowledged this specific anomaly for Bridgend, and sought views on how it might be addressed. This was particularly important as he is proposing reforms that will require all councils to collaborate more systematically on a regional footprint, and Bridgend can’t do this across two fronts.

"As part of the minister’s statement, he announced that the Welsh Government’s preferred solution is for the Bridgend locality of the ABMU health board (the hospital and community health services) to be moved and become part of the Cwm Taf Health Board. This would mean that for the first time in many years, all of our services and collaborations would be lined up with a consistent group of partners.

"The Cabinet Secretary is proposing further dialogue over the coming months on all of these proposals, but his statement suggests that our work on social services and health integration across the communities of Bridgend County Borough would continue. Most of our operational relationships are within the Bridgend locality with GPs, community health and the Princess of Wales hospital. 

"While this work will continue, our partners would be RCT and Merthyr Tydfil councils, third sector partners operating in Bridgend County Borough and the Cwm Taf Health Board rather than Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and ABMU.

"Clearly a lot of work would be involved. I believe we need to focus on bringing our Western Bay ‘culture’ to our new partners, and also consider whether there are any key aspects in which we could work with former Western Bay partners and the Cwm Taf partners (as South Wales Police already do).

"For services like strategic transport, economic development and planning, the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement confirms our existing commitment to developing meaningful sharing or collaboration across the City Deal area. 

"However, his announcement may well result in a greater impetus for this, and will almost certainly cast a wider net for a range of services that could be brought together on a similar basis – for example, by building further on our existing school improvement collaboration, or continuing to explore the sharing of support services.

"Before any potential re-alignment or local government reform can take place, a great deal of formal consultation will be necessary as well as further work to fully understand the consequences of such a move.

"The Cabinet Secretary’s proposals clearly have major implications, but they also present many positive opportunities, and this council will be engaging as fully as possible in shaping these further.

"The minister anticipates making a further statement in the autumn, so we will have more clarity on how any move would affect our current working partnerships, and a greater insight into what shape future reorganisation might take.

"The directors and I will keep you informed. We’ll also be interested in your views and thoughts on what this could mean for specific service areas.

"In case you haven’t seen it, I’ve attached a copy of the Cabinet Secretary’s statement here."

 Darren Mepham, Chief Executive


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