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.
A report by the Wales Audit Office says councils should explore more opportunities to work together as they look to cut costs.
The Meeting the Financial Challenges Facing Local Government in Wales paper recommends they work with other public services to reduce costs and deliver improved outcomes for citizens. The Welsh Local Government Association said it welcomed the report.
But there was some criticism for the report.
A major report has revealed the potential full scale of cuts and job losses in councils across Wales in a massive reorganisation of our local authorities.
The study has been commissioned by the Welsh Local Government Association ahead of a major review of services due to be published next week.
The review could recommend that the number of councils is halved from 22 to 11. The WLGA says that could result in 15,000 job losses - and that changes of that scale could cost £200 million pounds.
Steve Thomas, Chief Executive of the Welsh Local Government Association, says the IFS report into public finances shows that the next decade will mean unprecedented change in local government services.
Over a third of council tenants affected by the bedroom tax in areas of Wales have fallen behind on their rent, according to figures released by the TUC today.
Figures obtained by the False Economy campaign reveal across Britain over 50,000 council housing tenants have fallen behind on their rent since the reform was introduced in April – nearly a third of all tenants affected by the tax in the 114 local authorities that provided data.
However in some parts of Wales, the proportion of council housing tenants in arrears has been far higher.
In Wrexham and Anglesey, almost half of all council house tenants (44%) affected by the bedroom tax have been pushed into arrears since April.
In Swansea, 38% of tenants in the city affected by the tax have fallen behind on their rent and in Cardiff, 616 families have experienced difficulties.
Wales TUC has welcomed the Welsh Government’s Smaller Properties Programme announced in August which provided £20 million in funding to help with the provision of smaller affordable homes.
Reacting to the figures Wales TUC National Officer, Julie Cook said,
“Today’s depressing news provides further proof that the Bedroom Tax is pushing families into complete despair. Disabled people who need space for their carers and families, and who have nowhere else to move, are being put at risk of debt and homelessness by the tax."
A spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association, which represents local councils, said any attempts to change the way Chief Executives and other senior officers are paid could lead to employment tribunals and put off talented staff taking up key roles in Wales.
The organisation that represents councils in Wales says that council tax will rise by an average of 2.9% in the coming year. The WLGA says this will mean that households in Wales will pay over £200 less on average than those in England. The increase will work out on average at £27 over a year.
This prediction is based on a survey of councils across Wales, although not all councils have yet finalised their budgets.
In England council tax is expected to rise by an average of 1.1% according to the the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.
- Anglesey - 5%
- Gwynedd - 3.5%
- Conwy - 3.88%
- Denbighshire - 2%
- Flintshire - 3%
- Wrexham - 2.75%
- Powys - 2.75%
- Ceredigion - 3%
- Pembrokeshire - 2.95%
- Carmarthenshire - 3%
- Swansea - 3.8%
- Neath Port Talbot - 3.87%
- Bridgend - 3.5%
- Vale of Glamorgan - 4.8%
- Rhondda Cynon Taff - 3.95%
- Merthyr Tydfil - 3.2%
- Caerphilly - 2.35%
- Blaenau Gwent - 4.6%
- Torfaen - 3.35%
- Monmouthshire - no change
- Newport - 3.5%
- Cardiff - no change
Gaynor James, who runs a youth cafe in Blaenau Gwent, says some children are slipping through the net.
David Swallow, the ex-headmaster of Barry Comprehensive, says schools need support.