National and Devolved Politics

08.06.18

Councillors reject merger plans, tell minister to ‘stick green paper in the bin’

Anglesey councillors have unanimously rejected plans to merge with neighbouring Gwynedd Council, telling first minister Carwyn Jones to “stick his green paper in the bin where it belongs.”

The Welsh Government’s consultative green paper advocated reorganisation and sets out its intent for a “stronger, more empowered local government in Wales,” which includes plans to merge neighbouring authorities in an effort to cut the 22 existing councils in the country down to just 10.

However, in a special meeting of the full council yesterday, a report was presented warning that the green paper was largely silent on how best to safeguard local accountability.

The plans were rejected unanimously by councillors, who argued that the merger would have a “hugely detrimental effect” on service provision, local democracy and accountability – as well as impacting on the local economy and council tax levels.

Council leader Cllr Llinos Medi was dubious of the benefits to mergers and claimed that it “certainly won’t be the answer to the huge financial cuts faced by councils across Wales.”

“Local government in Wales already faces unprecedented budget cuts, but we’ve yet to hear from the Welsh Government where the money will come to pay for it,” she said. “There are estimates that local government reorganisation could cost more than £200m.”

Medi argued that this cash could be better spent on improving services for residents when budgets are under “such severe pressure.”

The council leader added that a merged Anglesey and Gwynedd would be geographically huge, thus impacting on local accountability and service delivery.

“Members also feel that reorganisation would blur work and hinder progress on major infrastructure projects led by the council and service transformation,” she concluded.

Cllr Bryan Owen, leader of the main opposition group, Anglesey Independents, echoed many of the concerns raised, adding: “Bigger does not always mean better. We’ve seen this in North Wales in terms of the health service.

“I believe that any merger would have a devastating effect on local accountability and services, as well as a severe economic impact on the county town of Llangefni where the main council offices are located.”

During a meeting of the Isle of Anglesey County Council to discuss its response, Owen added: “We're fine as we are, thank you.

“The first minister needs to stick his green paper in the bin where it belongs.”

 

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