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LOCAL GOVERNMENT (WALES) BILL: 'WILL WEAKEN COUNCIL ROLE'

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Responding to the opening statement from the government's Lord Rodger yesterday in the second reading of the Local ...
Responding to the opening statement from the government's Lord Rodger yesterday in the second reading of the Local Government (Wales) Bill Lord Prys Davies (Lab) said the bill would lead to reduced services in many parts of Wales.

He said: 'The true explanation of the Bill is that Welsh Office ministers decided to produce a weaker local government structure whose leaders would be less able to stand up to the Welsh Office and at the same time to increase further the power and patronage of the Secretary of State, which are already formidable in Wales. To the extent that is so, it is idle to pretend that the Bill is other than mischievous.'

Lord Prys Davies went on to say that there is an acceptance of the case for unitary authorities but that the Labour Party has always made it plain that this would be if there was an elected Welsh assembly with responsibility for strategic services such as highways, trading standards and key aspects of education and social services.

The fundamental flaw in the new structure, he said, would be that it leads inevitably to joint arrangements on a vast scale. 'It will be seen that the Secretary of State has taken power to himself...to set up a range of statutory boards to which he can hive off many functions specified in the Bill.
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