Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Council mergers...and then there were eight? - Updated

Update 17th June; Looks like the leak was spot on - BBC Wales confirms this morning that the proposals are for 8 or 9 councils instead of 22, with Carms, Pembs and Ceredigion in possible merger.


Welsh Minister Leighton Andrews will be presenting the Labour government's proposed new Council map of Wales tomorrow. However there seems to have been a leak and BBC Wales are reporting that instead of reducing the number from 22 to 12, as was expected after the Williams Commission, the final number will actually be 8 or perhaps 9.

Originally Carmarthenshire was going to be left as a 'stand alone' county but, if the BBC have got this right, under the new map Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion will disappear and be merged back into the form of the old, pre-1996 dinosaur, Dyfed County Council.

In practice this is going to be a difficult, if not impossible, exercise across Wales, the delay and uncertainty has already caused criticism that the Welsh Government has no real idea of, a) what it is doing and b) how much it will cost.

There is also the small matter of the Assembly elections next May. The Western Mail speculates that the plan could form part of the Labour manifesto.

The proposals have already caused division in Welsh Labour and locally, both the Plaid and Labour Groups on Carmarthenshire Council have expressed their opposition to merger and vowed to fight to keep Carmarthenshire as it is. Cynics might think that the Welsh Government have lost interest in preserving Carmarthenshire as a'stand alone' authority now that it's no longer Labour run...

There will be an awful lot of political comment over this, and hopefully when the final details are known it will be put out to a full Wales-wide public consultation. There is an arguable consensus of opinion however that having 22 of everything is 'unsustainable' in a country the size of Wales.

One important question will be how the number can be reduced without losing local democratic accountability. There's already precious little here in basket-case Carmarthenshire.

Plaid Cymru have suggested that, for accountability, the 22 local authorities are retained but they will elect regional government to deliver services such as transport, social care and planning.

The Welsh Conservatives believe that mergers should only happen if local authorities themselves think it desirable and practical rather than being forced on them via Cardiff.

Your comments and views would be welcome. 


Cibwr said...

I believe that we need to return to a two tier model (plus reformed community councils). I think that we need 5 directly elected regional councils, taking in Transport, Education (including further but not higher education), waste disposal, Health & Social Services, Economic Planning, The Ambulance, Fire and Police services. I would base these on Cardiff, Newport, Swansea, Mid & West Wales, North Wales. Below them would be a tier of about 25 or so councils - roughly what we have now carrying out most other functions. All councils should be elected by STV and overall less Councillors. Community councils should cover the whole country, including the urban areas where they are currently absent - but they should be encouraged to merge to have less than there are now.

Anonymous said...

Helloooo , there was a voice in the early nineties that said that it was ridiculous to have 22 Councils representing the population of Wales. Didnt make any difference it still all went ahead in 1996 . It would be interesting to know what the cost of redundancies alone was in 1996 let alone the overall cost of Local Government reorganisation. London which has a population of just about three times the size of Wales has 32 London Boroughs and I think that most would think that this is top heavy!