Public Service Minister Leighton Andrews has rejected all three of the plans for voluntary mergers put forward by local councils. The proposals would have seen six councils become three ahead of the scheme for compulsory mergers which Labour plan to introduce if the party wins the 2016 Assembly election. They were:
- Bridgend to merge with the Vale of Glamorgan
- Torfaen to merge with Blaenau Gwent
- Conwy to merge with Denbighshire
The proposal from Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan broke guidelines that a new authority shouldn't cross health authority boundaries or include areas entitled to different levels of European aid.
The Torfaen-Blaenau Gwent merger was seen as partly an attempt to pre-empt a forced three-way merger combining both councils with Caerphilly.
Conwy and Denbighsire appeared to fit in with the Welsh Government's own thinking but the council leaders had made it clear that they would only go ahead if the costs of merger were fully funded by Cardiff Bay.
There will now be a rethink on whether to go ahead with legislation that would have enabled voluntary mergers to take place.
The Welsh Government will today emphasise its determination to cut the number of local councils. The First Minister will formally respond in the Senedd to the Williams Commission's plan to cut the 22 county and county borough councils by half.
The Local Government Minister will then publish a White Paper on the councils' future. The Government is pressing on despite so far failing to secure the cross-party support it's been seeking. Even the Welsh Labour Party has only just begun a three month consultation before deciding its position.
The Welsh Local Government Association has warned that the costs of reorganisation will be considerable but last week the First Minister made it clear that such objections are not going to stop him demanding that the councils merge into larger local authorities.
Welsh local government leaders have warned that merging councils won't solve problems caused by what they estimate is a £2.6 billion budget shortfall facing Wales’ public services as a whole. They claim that there's a "growing misperception" that reorganisation offers a "silver bullet".
The leaders, who are holding a conference in Llandudno describe the idea of merging councils, to cut their number from 22 to between 10 and 12, as "widespread speculation", though it was recommended in a report commissioned by the Welsh Government.
The conference is also hearing from the Local Government Minister, Lesley Griffiths. She's told councils that they must embrace "profound change" and that if they volunteer for mergers, elections to the new authorities could take place in May 2018.
Welsh councils could start merging into new larger local authorities within four years, the Local Government Minister will announce later this morning. Lesley Griffiths will tell the Welsh Local Government Association conference in Llandudno that a "cosmetic redrawing of the map" won't be enough.
She'll add that although there's a need to save money, that's not what driving reform. The minister will claim that a "profound change" is needed to make local authorities fit for the 21st century. She'll also confirm that councillors elected in 2011 will serve five year terms.
The next local elections are being shifted from 2016 to 2017 to avoid a clash with the Assembly election. There could now be local elections two years running as further extending councillors' terms of office has been ruled out, presumably on the grounds that it would be bad for democracy.
Plaid Cymru has welcomed the Welsh Government's action on council chief executives' pay but the party's spokesperson raised in the Senedd his concerns about how Carmarthenshire council has responded to an audit report.
The auditor found that Carmarthenshire acted unlawfully by making payments to its chief executive designed to help him to pay less tax on his pension.
The minister, Lesley Griffiths, declined to respond because of a potential police investigation.
The Shadow Local Government Minister has said that the Welsh Government's crackdown on pay for council chief executives doesn't go far enough.
Pay for council chief executives is to be regulated. The Local Government Minister, Lesley Griffiths, says councils will be "obliged" to pay attention to a renumeration panel's view of any proposed salary change that isn't linked to a pay rise (or pay cut) for all council officers.
Councils will also be required to advertise externally all jobs with a salary of £100,000 a year or more. The Minister says "more robust" arrangements are needed because the issue has sometimes been handled poorly and led to negative publicity for Welsh local government.
The First Minister explains why he might consider breaking a manifesto commitment to start a shake-up of local councils before the next Welsh election. Carwyn Jones said there are increasing calls, including from within local government, for the re-organisation process to begin before 2016.
At his monthly press conference, Mr Jones, said any such move must wait until the Williams Commission on public services reports in a couple of months and would need cross-party support. He also said a bill paving the way for a shake-up would be unlikely to make it through the Assembly before 2016.
It's long been thought that the current number of Welsh local authorities - 22 - is unsustainable. This is the strongest signal yet that senior politicians are intending at least to start the ball rolling before 2016.
The First Minister says he is 'open' to starting the process of reorganising local councils earlier than expected. Carwyn Jones' Welsh Government was elected with a manifesto commitment not to shake-up the current network of councils during this Assembly term.
During his monthly press conference Mr Jones said he 'doesn't like changing manifest commitments' but has heard increasing calls to bring forward the process. But he warned that any actual reorganisation was still unlikely before 2016 because of the legislative timetable,
A review is being carried out into the delivery of public services will report at the beginning of next year. There's widespread agreement that the current set-up of 22 local authorities is unsustainable.