1. ITV Report

New attempt to cut the number of Welsh councils

The Welsh Government is proposing three councils in north Wales, which was one of the options in three years ago. Credit: Welsh Government
The 2012 plans for mid and south Wales are unchanged, except that Newport and Caerphilly would be a separate council from the rest of Gwent. Credit: Welsh Government

The Welsh Government has unveiled fresh proposals to merge local councils, with some changes from the 2012 plans which were later abandoned. Three years ago it wanted top replace the existing 22 counties and county boroughs with just eight new authorities (with the option of nine if north Wales had three councils instead of two).

This time, it's suggesting 10 new councils, reviving the option of three in north Wales and dividing Gwent in two. The biggest change is that at this stage it is only a suggestion and a consultation has been launched on what should actually happen. Last time, there was fierce opposition from local government to the threat of compulsory mergers.

Voluntary mergers are an option, perhaps as part of a phasing in of changes but what the Welsh Government calls a comprehensive merger programme is also a possibility. And the Local Government Secretary, Alun Davies, isn't hiding his belief that there needs to be change.

Wales needs strong, effective, empowered local authorities which can weather continued austerity and build local democratic structures fit for future generations. I do not believe that our local authorities, as currently constituted, can fully play this role; and I am not alone.

Councils have been clear that services are wearing down to the point of collapse and there is a general acceptance that things cannot carry on as they are and a general acknowledgement that more money, even if it were available, would not solve the problem.

I also know local government has made real efforts to change, adapt and invest for the future but I also understand that in the face of UK Government cuts, there are limited options to ensuring the future sustainability of local services. Unless we do something radical in response to these challenges we all recognise, the role of local government will increasingly be one of managed decline.

I recognise there are a number of challenges in creating larger, stronger authorities; but these challenges are not insurmountable. If we do proceed with one of the options for creating larger authorities in the future, we will provide early practical support to local authorities.

– Local Government Secretary Alun Davies AM

The proposals are being presented as part of a package, suggesting that if councils are merged, there could be greater power and freedom from central control for local authorities. This is the full list of proposed mergers:

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