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September 13, 2019
Minister Alun Davies says councillors 'like Oliver Twist'

Minister Alun Davies says councillors ‘like Oliver Twist’

Oliver Twist

Image caption

Welsh councillors have been asking for more money “like Oliver Twist”, Alun Davies said

Councillors asking for more money from the Welsh Government have been compared to Oliver Twist by the Local Government Secretary, Alun Davies.

Mr Davies said he wants councillors to stop “complaining”.

Councils have said services are under threat after a financial settlement from the Welsh Government saw all councils get real-terms cuts.

Plaid Cymru called for Mr Davies to apologise and said the remarks were in “poor taste”.

The minister said councillors agreed in private that the current system of 22 local authorities was unsustainable but were “unwilling to say publicly”.

“I’ve had a lot of councillors coming to me like Oliver Twists over the past few weeks – ‘Can we have some more'”, he told Radio Cymru debate programme, Hawl i Holi.

Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist is the story of an orphan boy born in a workhouse.

Oliver asks “Please Sir, I want some more” after he draws lots with other hungry boys, with the loser asking for more gruel.

The local government secretary told the programme that “Wales doesn’t need 22 local authorities”.

“I want to see change and I want this change to come from councils,” he said.

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Alun Davies’ comments were in poor taste, Plaid Cymru said

“When I’ve spoken to them privately many times where they’ve agreed that the current system is unsustainable, yet they’re unwilling to say that publicly.

“I’ve had enough of that and it has to change, so what I want to hear from councillors is no complaining.”

Mr Davies said in the summer that councils would not be forced to merge, withdrawing proposals that put the matter back on the table earlier this year.

The minister said councils in England suffered larger cuts and were soon to lose central government funding altogether.

Image caption

Alun Davies was compared by the Welsh Conservatives to Mr Bumble, as portrayed in a BBC adaptation pictured above

‘Villainous master’

Dai Lloyd, local government spokesman for Plaid Cymru, called for Mr Davies to apologise.

He said: “Comparing councillors to Oliver Twist – the starving orphan boy begging for gruel, is in incredibly poor taste and ironically makes himself look like the villainous master in the story.”

The Welsh Conservatives’ Mark Isherwood compared the local government secretary to “Mr Bumble” – the warden of the orphanage in the Oliver Twist story.

“Yet again the cabinet secretary puts himself in direct conflict with councils, and all he can do is patronise them,” he said.

“If he instead tried to build a constructive relationship, the Welsh Government might get more done”.

Welsh Government has declined to respond to the criticism.

Plaid Cymru called for an “urgent” meeting with finance secretary Mark Drakeford to discuss the Welsh Government budget and their concerns about council funding.

The party is in the second year of its two year budget deal with Labour.

“Councils are facing a situation where they will simply not be able to provide essential services to the public,” said Plaid AM Rhun ap Iorwerth.

“This is not acceptable. I want a rethink, and for an assurance that increasing council funding will be a priority for Welsh Government should new finances become available in the forthcoming UK budget,”

Councils have been told by Welsh Government that they will be a “top priority” if Wales gets in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget next Monday.

Source BBC News

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