I welcome this Bill and the language it uses. I have criticised Ministers previously for the language they have used in legislation. This is the first time that the explanatory memorandum, or what I describe as the Ladybird version, is more difficult to understand than the Bill itself. Words are clearly defined to mark out what the Bill purports to do. For example, section 3 uses words such as “efficiency”, “effectiveness” and “economy in the organisation”. These are simple words that people in the street understand. This Government is trying to get across the message by using simple words that can be implemented easily.
In amalgamating local authorities I hope councils can achieve more efficiencies by coming together of their own free will to increase their bargaining power. If three counties need to purchase vehicles, for example, they could get a better deal if they bargained collectively. This makes more sense from a business perspective.
I welcome that the Minister is abolishing or amalgamating a number of State bodies. I will be keeping an eye on this issue because we will be creating a new body, the local government management agency, through the amalgamation of local government computer services, the local government management services board and An Chomhairle Leabharlanna. Everyone thinks the local government computer service is a simple board but its membership is restricted to county managers and certain officials in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. It also happens to have sub-committees in areas such as change management, ICT and audit. God forbid that the Minister would put in place a new body that encompasses the three boards only for us suddenly to find all these sub-committees. That is the last thing people want to see. Put a board in place and let it operate. All the members of this board are county managers. We should not make jobs for the boys.