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  1. Nick Powell

Labour-Plaid deal delays council shake-up

Labour and Plaid Cymru have reached a deal that will see the Welsh Government's local government bill become law. The Public Service Minister, Leighton Andrews, has agreed with his Plaid Cymru shadow, Simon Thomas, that there will be no move to force councils to mereg until after next year's Assembly election.

Plaid Cymru has stopped Labour from enforcing their map for local government reorganisation through the back door before plans are put to people. Large scale changes to Local Government structures should not be decided by politicians with no mandate but should be decided by people in an election.

The demands made by Plaid Cymru will mean that all parties can present their individual proposals in their manifestos and seek a mandate to implement them, without being bound by the current government’s preferences.

– Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood AM

I’d like to thank Simon Thomas and his Plaid Cymru colleagues for the constructive approach they’ve taken on this matter. It is clear that status quo is not an option for local government, and an important part of the framework can now be put in place for much needed reform. It is now down to each political party to set our their proposals in the coming election.

– Public Services Bill Leighton Andrews AM

The other opposition parties have poured scorn on the deal, accusing Plaid Cymru of selling out to Labour.

Plaid’s leader has happily cosied up and done a deal with them. We should’ve expected nothing less than this astonishing hypocrisy. You’d be hard pushed to make it up.

Thanks to Plaid and Labour, local people won’t get a say on the future of our councils. Thanks to them, councils could now be forced to merge.

Vote Plaid – Get Labour. It’s that simple - and this disregard for Welsh communities is concrete evidence.

– Shadow Local Government Minister, Janet Finch-Saunders AM

Plaid have sold out, but received absolutely nothing in return. It’s bizarre. Their embarrassing u-turn is based on smoke and mirrors. They have achieved literally nothing. There is no commitment for a fair voting system and it was always the case that mergers were not going to happen before the Assembly election.

– Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson Peter Black AM
  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


  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.

Council mergers plans for Wales rejected

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:

The bridge over the Clwyd, which separates Denbighshire and Conwy, Credit: ITV News
  • 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.

I welcome the leadership shown by the political leaders of each of the authorities concerned and their willingness to help shape their futures. I understand that securing agreement from their prospective partner councils took a good deal of work and personal commitment.

I have considered each Expression of Interest carefully against the criteria set out in the Prospectus. I am disappointed to report that on the basis of this assessment I am not persuaded that any one of these Expressions of Interest sufficiently meets the criteria for moving ahead to prepare a full Voluntary Merger Proposal.

– Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews AM

There will now be a rethink on whether to go ahead with legislation that would have enabled voluntary mergers to take place.

  1. Nick Powell

Welsh Government to press on with council shake-up

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.

We are in the process of conducting our own analysis of what the costs might be. I have seen the Williams commission’s analysis, and I have seen the WLGA’s analysis. It is important that we, as a Government, are able to have that analysis as well. However, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we are seeing unnecessary duplication of effort and cost as a result of the present local government structure that we have, and it must change.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM


  1. Nick Powell

Council mergers "no silver bullet" say local leaders

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 pressures being placed on Wales’ public services are significant and complex, and any future reform of how these services are delivered must be based on a consideration of the public sector as a whole rather than a ‘paint it by numbers’ approach to council boundaries. We acknowledge that local government itself must change, but the reform process should be based on a true consideration of the functions and role that local councils should fulfil rather than the structures that are required to support this.

Local democracy in Wales is not an abstract political concept. The public want local government and local decision-making when it comes to the issues and services that they care most strongly about, and public services will always be delivered more effectively when they are shaped and informed through an open dialogue with the people who use them.

In stark contrast to the current response in Wales of increased centralisation and ultimately less accountable forms of government, today’s event will hopefully start the process of remodelling the delivery of local public services on a principle of localism and decentralisation that is far more sensitive to community interaction, more publicly engaged and ultimately more empowering of its citizens.

– Cllr Bob Wellington, Leader Welsh Local Government Association

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.

  1. Nick Powell

Merge, save money and embrace change, councillors told

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.

Larger authorities would make more of the money available for the front-line services, but this reform is about much more. It must be a catalyst for profound change so local authorities are fit for this century. Local authorities must be organised in ways which allows the voices of communities to ring loud and clear at the centre of democratic decision making. I want us to work together to put in place a new relationship between local authorities, communities and individuals.

Good leadership will be crucial in maintaining forward momentum during this period of change. Uncertainty could harm this and so I want to confirm the next Local Government elections on the basis of existing authorities will be held in May 2017. I will also legislate to pave the way for local authorities who wish to merge to do so early and to hold their next elections, for the new authorities, in May 2018.

– Local Government Minister Lesley Griffiths AM

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.

Councils should not challenge auditor says Plaid

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.

It is not the role of local government to challenge the findings of local government but [the council should] comply with them immediately.

– Plaid Cymru Local Government Spokesperson Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM

The minister, Lesley Griffiths, declined to respond because of a potential police investigation.

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