Speak at our Northern Region lunch near Blackpool today on the topic of local government reorganisation along with Dennis Cooper and Mark Hammerton from Eversheds. We have an audience of over 30 and it ends up in a really good debate.
A number of those present have travelled from the North East where Durham County and its seven districts are due to be merged into one new unitary authority. You can almost feel the tension crackling in the air as I carefully pick my way through my own reorganisation experiences from the nineties in Scotland. When I mention some of my concerns about recruitment, culture change, harmonisation of terms and conditions, and how a 'them and us' can develop you could sense that many had concerns of their own as to how the situation now will play out in practice.
I also touched on communication, developing common systems and processes, called for a moratorium on inspection and one of my personal bugbears the lack of an independent staff commission to oversee the process and rule on disputes. I think this is a major blunder and predict that DCLG will come to regret this.
Dennis and myself have different views on the relevance of this but my view is just because the one in England in the nineties was a bit limp it doesn't mean you can't draft its powers differently and make it successful like the one in Scotland was. I guess it comes down to whether you believe that disputes should be settled through a legal process in the first instance or as a last resort!