The Minister reaffirmed the Assembly Government’s commitment not to reorganise local government in Wales but said that change and improvement was necessary and inevitable.
Dr Gibbons said that delivering better public services requires radical reform.
Councils will deliver better outcomes for the people of Wales by working across traditional boundaries, pooling resources and staff, and engaging with citizens as a single public service.
Our citizens expect us to provide the best. This can only be achieved by working together to develop a partnership based on an honest dialogue where we can support as well as challenge each other.
Over the last nine months I been impressed by the way joint working is rapidly becoming mainstream thinking and at progress on joint working at the regional level. For example, the work of the 10 south-east Wales authorities on shared services is an ambitious response to the need for efficiencies and the need to streamline.
The Minister said that he recognised that local government faced a complex task and commended the WLGA and others who have provided leadership in taking this forward.
He added that that better scrutiny was essential in the drive to improve public services and the focus must be much wider than just local authority services with citizens at the heart of arrangements.
The Minister said:
I am pleased to report that the £100,000 scrutiny fund that the Assembly Government created to help local authorities innovate and learn from others has been well received. Funding will go to nine innovative projects involving the majority of local authorities and a range of partners including Community Health Councils and Local Service Boards. These projects will help create a more open and honest dialogue on performance.
Turning to financial matters, the Minister said that it was clear that the public sector in Wales was facing the most challenging economic conditions since the Assembly was formed.
The current financial climate is unprecedented. While there was limited scope to identify additional resources for local government in the draft Budget I have secured an extra £10 million in the revenue support grant for next year. This will provide an overall additional £105 million for local government in revenue support grant in 2009-10, an increase of 2.8%.
I will publish full details of the allocations to individual local authorities next week but have recognised the need to strike a balance between ensuring that the allocations reflect the cost of individual local authorities delivering services and to make sure that all authorities receive a basic minimum increase.
I have announced that there will be a floor funding arrangement in 2009-10 with the minimum threshold set at 1.5 per cent.
9 October 2008