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Forced mergers back on the agenda’ despite Labour pledges

The Local Government Secretary has announced plans for council mergers that he says “must be game changing”.

His proposals will lead to just 10 councils – rather than the 22 currently operating in Wales.

Despite referring to ‘voluntary mergers’ in his statement, the Cabinet Secretary – Alun Davies – has made it clear that statutory frameworks could be used to force through the changes if local authorities resist the proposals.

A Welsh Government Green Paper proposes ten possible new council areas:

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

Commenting on the statement, Shadow Local Government Secretary, Janet Finch-Saunders, said:

“We now know that forced mergers are well and truly back on the agenda – despite pledges from the minister’s predecessor.

“He says the process will be voluntary but he’s already drawn up a hit list, and made it clear that he will use statutory frameworks to force it through if required.

“These are the third major proposals to reform local government in just a few years, and the uncertainty is doing nothing to help creaking frontline services.

“We also want to see a reduction in the cost of politics, yet it seems that the minister’s plans would include a bumper pay rise for councillors – something that will alarm taxpayers.

“What’s equally concerning is Labour’s record with major reorganisations of this kind.

“We heard lofty rhetoric ahead of Labour’s last NHS reorganisation, which led to huge deficits and unprecedented pressure on frontline staff.”