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No council mergers without a referendum

The Welsh Conservatives have announced plans to give local communities the final say on local authority mergers.

 

The move comes as Labour’s Local Government (Wales) Bill reaches the National Assembly for its third stage of reading.

 

Amendments tabled by the Welsh Conservatives’ Shadow Minister for Local Government – Janet Finch-Saunders AM – mean that local residents would first have to approve a proposed merger, via a referendum, before it could go ahead.

 

Labour’s costly plans to reorganise local government in Wales have been controversial from the start.

 

The Williams Commission recommended that Wales’ 22 local authorities should be reduced to 10, 11 or 12 councils – but Labour’s Public Services Minister now plans to press on with plans to cut that to just 8 or 9.

 

Mrs Finch-Saunders said that Welsh Conservative plans would put the power back in local hands. She said:

 

“The Welsh Conservatives steadfastly oppose Labour’s forced mergers and will continue to stand up for our proud communities the length and breadth of Wales.

 

“As we’ve said all along, where Councils can work together, share services and save money they have the backing and support of Welsh Conservatives – but only with the consent of local people.

 

“Our plans would put power back in to local hands, ensuring any merger is put to residents via a referendum.

 

“We have long opposed Labour’s marker-pen assault on our communities. Instead of taking people with him the Minister has ploughed ahead with his unpopular plans, risking great upheaval, less localised services and an attempt to banish many of Wales’ proudest communities from the map altogether.”