The art of persuasion

Was it ever realistic to expect a major shake-up of councils to be carried out as a result of negotiation and persuasion?

This seems to me the key question we should use in how we judge the First Minister's attempts to re-organise them.

He has failed to get agreement among the parties at the Assembly and among most of the councils themselves.

Three voluntary mergers are on the table but they're not enough to ensure the overall change is radical enough.

The First Minister told journalists in his end-of-year news conference that he always knew full reform would take legislation.

What he means by that is a new law to force through the changes that he's been unable to persuade other to agree to.

Ammunition

Enforced change won't happen until after the next Assembly elections so the future of councils, like the future of an M4 relief road, will become a meaty issue for the parties to include in their manifestos ahead of the vote in 2016.

In the meantime, Leighton Andrews, the minister responsible for trying to bring the number of councils down, says he's disappointed that only half of them actually responded to the Welsh government's proposals on re-organisation earlier in the year.

The body representing councils, the WLGA, says its members all recognise the need for change.

But this will inevitably be used as ammunition by the Welsh government that too many council leaders have their heads in the sand.

I started this year writing about council re-organisation when the Williams Commission was published.

It called for a halving in the number of local authorities. Nobody pretended then it was going to be easy.

And guess what, it's not.