Local Government Reorganisation
The Welsh Government has announced its proposed map for local government reorganisation. The proposals will potentially lead to a smaller number of larger councils – either 8 or 9 – with the City of Cardiff Council merging with Vale of Glamorgan Council. The Welsh Government will consult on these proposals and a draft ‘Mergers and Reform’ Bill in the autumn.
The Minister for Public Services, Leighton Andrews AM, this week provided some real clarity on the benefits of reorganisation during his speech at the Welsh Local Government Association’s annual conference.
While we in Cardiff are open to change, and recognise that the current way of working is unsustainable, the business case for making savings and delivering better public services has to stack up.
We also have to bear in mind that the financial challenges that council’s like Cardiff face are immediate and our public services will be placed under massive pressure over the next few years. The forthcoming Chancellor’s Budget is likely to have immediate consequences for council’s across Britain. Local government re-organisation is not going to happen overnight, and neither will it be a quick fix for the big challenges facing local public services right now.
That aside, this opportunity for re-organisation is one we are strongly committed to and one we are determined to explore with the Welsh Government and other local authorities. I think we all now need to come together and work towards delivering a new era for local government in Wales.
A City Deal Update
You may have seen a lot in the news recently about a City Deal for Cardiff and the wider region. I blogged earlier this year about the Chancellor’s announcement that negotiations were to begin on a City Deal for the Cardiff Capital Region, and what this could mean for local people.
Simply put, City Deals are all about investing to support the economy and create jobs, not just in Cardiff but across the Cardiff Capital Region.
There have been a number of city deals struck between cities and Government across the UK. Each deal is tailored to suit the local priorities of the city and region involved, but they tend to share some things in common – significant investment in areas such as transportation, skills and housing.
For example, Glasgow recently secured a City Deal from the UK and Scottish Government worth over £1bn to invest in improved transport and skills across the city and the Clyde Valley. A similar investment in South Wales would lead to the creation of many new jobs, and not just for Cardiff, but for local people across the wider region.
Council leaders and other stakeholders across the Cardiff Capital Region are working together, and with the Welsh Government, to develop a business case to take to Central Government by the end of the year.
I’ll update on this exciting and hugely important project over the months ahead.
Last August I took a private break to China, a place I had always wanted to visit. During my trip, I visited Cardiff’s twin city for over 30 years, Xiamen. This is a significant partnership as prior to this, no city in the UK had ever twinned with a Chinese city.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to meet with numerous civic leaders and even got to meet the Mayor of Xiamen, Mr Lui Keqing, an event that was aired on Chinese television.
This week, delegates from Xiamen, including Mr Lyu Can Jun, Director General of Xiamen Municipal Bureau of Agriculture, came to Cardiff to build on an already strong relationship and to discuss the potential for investment, exports, and job opportunities.
We have a lot to learn from Xiamen, a city that has responded well to rapid growth in population, and is also recognised as a city with a high quality of life in China. Xiamen has over 5 million people living in the city region which has demanded the development of important new infrastructure, like road and rail. The city plans to build a second airport by 2020, a new metro system and expand their popular Bus Rapid Transit Network.
The challenges faced by Xiamen in responding to growth are similar to those facing Cardiff – and it is useful to learn from their experiences and build on our relationship.
Following on from a massive sporting event for the city, Velothon Wales, I had the opportunity to meet with local cycling charity Pedal Power this week. Pedal Power encourages children and adults of all ages and abilities to try out cycling and aims to remove the barriers to cycling that many people face. This includes providing adapted bicycles and trikes for disabled adults and children.
Encouraging more people to cycle, especially to work and back, brings essential benefits for the city in terms of improving health and wellbeing, reducing congestion and restricting air pollution (cars are currently one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions).
It was great to meet the Pedal Power team, hear about their future plans and discuss how Cardiff can become an even more cycle-friendly city! If you would like to find out more about Pedal Power, or are interested in taking part in their Team Spirit 2015 Cycle Ride in September, you can find information on their website.
I’m sure the Pedal Power team, and the many others with a keen interest in improving cycling in the city, will help us in delivering our Corporate Plan commitment of developing a Cycling Strategy benchmarked against the best cities in Europe by December 2016.
There will be an opportunity to contribute to this strategy in the coming months, but in the meantime you can find out more information on the Keep Cardiff Moving website.