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Cost of merging councils 'up to £268m'

Credit: J.M. Guyon/Candybox Images/PA Images

The upfront cost of merging Welsh councils could range between £160m and £268m.

That's according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)

But it also says this is offset against potential savings of £65m a year across all councils after a three year period.

In the study CIPFA Wales evaluated a number of areas where the costs of transition and recurrent savings are likely to be significant.

These included people change costs, including redundancy, of up to £158m; property, systems and other change management costs of around £54m and income forgone because of council tax harmonisation of at least £57m.

With over half of the UK Government’s consolidation plan still to be realised, all political leaders need to be honest with the public about what the future holds and what action is needed. Indeed in our recent Manifesto for the 2015 election, one of our calls was for all decisions on spending and services to be taken in the context of medium to long-term financial sustainability.

– Rob Whiteman, CIPFA Chief Executive

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  1. Nick Powell

£10,000 pay rise for AMs proposed

Assembly members will get a pay rise of nearly £10,000 a year under proposals from the independent body set up to decide their salaries. AMs are currently paid £53,852, due to rise to £54,390 next year. An increase to £64,000 would be implemented after the next Assembly election in 2016.

The Remuneration Board says AMs increased powers in the next Assembly justify the increase but their pension scheme will be made less generous. Even so, the overall package will be worth 10.4%.

AMs' pay was frozen after the last election in 2011 but they will get a 1% rise next year, which is similar to what's happened to Welsh NHS workers pay, although their pay packets are usually a lot smaller.

Credit: PA

The most highly paid politician in the Assembly will remain the First Minister. Carwyn Jones' salary will go up from £135,260 to £140,000 if he keeps his job after the election. The pension cut means that his overall package will actually shrink by more than 2%, as will also be the case for other ministers.

The chair of the Remuneration Board, Sandy Blair, said they felt they couldn't suggest a bigger increase for the First Minister as that would have pushed his salary above the £142,500 paid to the Prime Minister. There will now be a public consultation before the Board makes its final decision. It will then be implemented automatically, following a decision by AMs that they would no longer vote on their own pay increases.

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Couple plan move to England after Welsh NHS drug bid fails

A couple from Newport say they'll move to England in the next month after finding out that their bid to have a cancer drug on the NHS in Wales has been turned down.

Angela and David Southwood say they'll move to England where axitinib is currently free. Credit: ITV Wales News

Terminally ill David Southwood is currently spending almost £4000 a month on axitinib, which he can no longer afford.

He and his wife Angela say they'll now move into a caravan 50 miles away in order to get the drug for free in England.

The Welsh Government says Wales spends more per head on cancer than England, and that a report shows Wales has a faster uptake of the drugs most recently launched.

"We have no plans to introduce a cancer drugs fund in Wales. Even England is now reconsidering if some drugs currently available through its cancer drugs fund should be removed from the list due to rising costs...We spend more per head on cancer than England and a report in the highly-respected British Journal of Cancer shows Wales has a faster uptake of the drugs most recently launched and then recommended by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)...The cancer experience survey conducted by Macmillan shows satisfaction levels with cancer services in Wales which put Welsh hospitals at the top of the European league."

– Welsh Government spokesperson

HT: Man City 1 - Swansea 1

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero battles for the ball with Swansea City's Tom Carroll Credit: PA

Swansea City are currently tied one all at half time. Swansea had taken the lead with a Bony goal before Man City hit back with a Jovetic score.

In other football, the half time score between Newport and Bury sees Newport ahead by two goals to nil. Wrexham also lead by two goals against Altrincham at the 45 minute mark.

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