Following their response to the Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery, Welsh Government has launched a consultation paper titled Reforming Local Government.
Following the consultation, Welsh Government aims to publish a draft Bill next year.
Local Government Minister, Lesley Griffiths AM, said: 'Reforming Local Government sets out Welsh Government's ambitions for local government in Wales. We want local authorities which are designed for the 21st century so this White Paper is about reform in every sense of the word.
'Merging local authorities is part of this, but changing the way councils make decisions, improving how they connect with their communities and developing how they scrutinise and improve their own performance are as important to achieve better services and outcomes for the people of Wales.
'I am seeking views from local authorities, the wider public sector and the public about how, together, we can reform local government. Following the consultation, I will introduce a Bill in January 2015, laying the ground for mergers to take place in a coherent and planned way.
'This autumn I will be consulting further to inform the development of a draft Bill for publication in the autumn of 2015. This will explain how the reforms and mergers will work. However, this Bill will not be introduced until after the National Assembly elections in 2016.
'Whilst no one should doubt the value the Welsh Government and the people of Wales place on public services, we all agree change must happen.
'This is the start of the conversation about how we work together to deliver this reform. I look forward to working with local authorities to develop these proposals and want to hear the views of all interested parties over the next three months.'
Constance Adams, WCVA Senior Policy Officer, said: 'As the White Paper states: mergers are only part of the story and this reform is ultimately seeking a local government which is connected to its communities, and which delivers improved well-being.
'It recognises Wales' strong tradition of community action and participation, and that people want to be involved in the decisions about the future of our communities and how services are designed and delivered. The White Paper says local authorities should work with communities and individuals on service design, involving other partners and particularly the third sector.
'The White Paper asks the important question: how can local authorities engage more effectively with their communities about the challenges of sustaining services, both as they are currently delivered and the need for change?
'We believe in engaging people and communities in identifying need or working together to meet those challenges. Co-designed services are often more likely to succeed in every way and enable the individual and community to be strengthened and empowered.
'The White Paper also seeks to create more effective scrutiny to ensure well-run local authorities which plan effectively, use the resources available to them to best effect, and which work collaboratively and in partnership with others wherever this will benefit the people they serve. The White Paper asks the question: what can improve the effectiveness of scrutiny?
'Third sector organisations have vital roles to play in scrutiny: groups can assist scrutiny committees through providing advice, expertise, frontline evidence and most importantly by providing a conduit to (often disenfranchised) citizens' voices. WCVA supports the co-option of third sector organisations to scrutiny committees.
'Therefore I'd encourage third sector organisations to respond to this consultation on the reform of local government. We will be responding and we will share our response.'
The deadline for consultation responses is 1 October 2014.