Welsh councils set for biggest shake-up since 1996

Plans have been announced to significantly reduce the number of local authorities in Wales. Currently there are 22 local councils - but the Welsh Government wants just eight or nine.

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  1. Nick Powell

Councils shake-up: 'Dramatic' council tax rise warning

The Welsh Local Government Association has said that today's proposals to shake up local councils offers no further assurances for council tax payers in Wales. It warns that bills could rise dramatically without a clear approach to how council tax will be adjusted when there's a merger between councils that have been setting different rates.

The WLGA says there's no consensus between the councils and the Welsh government about today's proposals. It says they add to the maps and options set out in the Williams report last year but do not provide additional clarity or certainty. The councils say that with no political agreement, reorganisation will take at least five years and warn that disruption, distraction and uncertainty will continue.

We call on the Welsh Government today to work closely with the WLGA and hold an urgent summit of the 22 council leaders and senior ministers, to discuss the future of local government in Wales. This summit could debate the way forward in terms of structures, but more importantly set in place a new vision for local government which is currently at the epicentre of public sector funding cuts and is having to carry a disproportionate share of the huge austerity burden.

The sustainability of authorities in Wales is in question over the next three years and it is time to examine all options for reforming public services across the board. This means looking at greater integration of health and social care, freeing up authorities from Government bureaucracy and regulation and also empowering local communities through their councils.

– WLGA Leader, Cllr Bob Wellington

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  1. Nick Powell

New council map announced in shake-up proposal

The Welsh Government is proposing eight new counties, with the option of Conwy and Denbighshire forming a separate authority. Credit: Welsh Government

The Welsh Government has published its plans to shake up local government. The current 22 local authorities would be replaced by either eight or nine new councils, with the only question left open is whether north Wales should have two councils or three.

The plans go further than the Williams Commission proposals for between 10 and 12 councils. The idea of following health board boundaries has also been rejected, with Bridgend grouped with Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil rather than Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

But to get its plans through, Labour will have to win an outright majority at next year's Assembly election or do a deal with another party. All the opposition parties have other ideas so today's map is not yet a done deal.

This announcement provides further clarity on the future configuration of local authorities in Wales. It sets out our preference for the future structure in south, mid and west Wales while facilitating further discussion around north Wales. The case in north Wales is finely balanced between two or three local authorities. We therefore feel that there is a case for a further debate and would welcome views. I want to emphasise this is not a final decision. It is the next phase in our public debate.

– Public Service Minister Leighton Andrews AM

The full list of proposed mergers is:

  • Gwynedd, Anglesey and Conwy
  • Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham
  • Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire
  • Swansea and Neath Port Talbot
  • Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil
  • Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan
  • Newport, Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly

Powys would remain unchanged and the option of merging Conwy and Denbighshire into an additional county is also on offer.

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