Holiday reading? Look away now.

Image copyright bbc
Image caption Handy hints and holiday reading.

The flow of press releases that had already slowed to a steady trickle is now more drip ... drip.

On Twitter parliamentary journalists are trying to work out - not the next twist in the hacking tale but which Tory MP has just been spotted in holiday 'dress down' red cords. Best draw a vale over that quest perhaps?

The latest round of MPs' expenses published this morning shows ... well, not an awful lot but that the man who was infamously at the top of the receipts pile last time, then Croydon Central MP Geraint Davies, is now MP for Swansea West and the lowest claimant of all Welsh MPs. His huge expenses showed, said Mr Davies that "I was one of the most hard-working MPs in Britain". I'm guessing he won't rely on the same logic this time round.

In Cardiff Bay the topic of conversation has gone from cuts and commissions to holiday plans. And yes, I know "recess" doesn't mean "holiday" but it has been a gruelling six months with a referendum and Assembly election, and most are looking forward to a break from term time, if not from political duties.

But the same issues will still confront AMs when September comes - which is why holiday reading came to mind.

On the train from Paddington last night I bumped into one former Welsh Labour MP who was putting the finishing touches to his novel. I'm confident it'll be gripping stuff, just as long as he didn't lose his laptop between Cardiff Central and Merthyr.

A must-read for anyone with an interest in the future of S4C will be a report by Ritchie Turner from the Global Innovation Academy at the University of Wales on efficiency and innovation at the channel. It is, I'm told, a thriller in the making.

And for AMs? Perhaps this report from Cardiff Business School should be required reading alongside the lighter stuff in the suitcase.

It's an examination of Welsh government policy towards local government, both in the past and casting forward. It looks at four areas - transport, local service boards, citizen engagement in school reorganisations and Communities First.

One striking overall finding that should surely be food for thought over the summer is this:

"In essence, we think that the problem in terms of collaboration is that both local public service providers and the Welsh Government, have settled for relatively small wins - in the form of improved dialogue and joining up - while failing to advance the big issues of strategic coherence and economies of scale.

"The delivery of strategic services by small local authorities can only be justified if those organisations prove themselves capable of operating at the regional and sub-regional level. We suggest that the Welsh Government should take decisive steps to safeguard the provision of strategic services."

That's a fairly strong criticism, in the light of successive Ministers insisting that they're been promoting the collaborative agenda for several years. Why might it be? Back to the report:

"Local authority officers and councillors believe that different parts of the Welsh Government often send out contradictory messages. In the past, co-ordination problems were blamed on the legacy of the 'Whitehall model' which had been inherited from the Welsh Office.

"More than a decade on, this explanation is perhaps wearing a bit thin."

To be fair, the report also makes a number of positive observations about progress towards collaboration and the way some examples the researchers looked at had improved communication and understanding, led to better decision-making and facilitating best practice.

The problem for Ministers is that the case for greater collaboration has always been based largely around the need to make significant savings in public sector expenditure. The report's finding, bluntly, is that there's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow:

"...there is little evidence of significant economies of scale - the partnerships we have studied did not report that collaboration had produced cash savings.

"Some interviewees saw pressures on budgets as an added incentive to work together but others feared it could make collaboration more difficult as partners sought to protect 'their budgets'."

It concludes:

"Our evidence does not necessarily mean that collaboration should be written off as a means of achieving benefits of scale in strategic services or of facilitating more 'joined up' service delivery. But it is an important reminder that collaboration among authorities or between councils and other local services is not a quick or easy fix."

Ministers could be forgiven for putting the report to one side and going back to that airport thriller.

Reality will strike soon enough this autumn.