Latest Public Sector News

06.05.15

More transparency and scrutiny needed of Welsh voluntary council mergers

The Welsh government needs to be more transparent about the costs and benefits of voluntary council mergers, and how they will be scrutinised, according to a committee of Welsh Assembly members.

The assembly’s finance committee has published a report on the provisions in the Local Government (Wales) Bill, expressing concerns that the bill will give Welsh government the power to approve the voluntary mergers without the costs and benefits of the mergers being known.

Jocelyn Davies AM, chair of the committee, said: “We felt that clarity is needed as to how the costs of voluntary mergers will be scrutinised and recommend that the Welsh government works with local government to prepare a clear plan for how it will estimate the costs of mergers.

“The committee also believes there are some areas which need further consideration in relation to the thresholds of transition committees and recommends the minister review this area of the bill.”

The Assembly members were also concerned with differing council tax levels between councils that may merge.

When giving evidence the minister for public services, Leighton Andrews AM, said the issues around council tax will need to be explored, but that he did not think that “council tax levels have to be harmonised between merging authorities on day one of any merger process”.

He added: “If authority A has a level of council tax and is providing a level of service to its residents, and council B has a level of council tax that is different and is providing a different level of service to its residents, they don’t, on the day of merger, necessarily expect to receive different levels of council tax or new levels of service.

“So, I think these are things that we can accommodate within the merger process, and we have the powers to allow authorities to vary council tax levels within their authorities.”

The committee believes that this issue needs to be addressed through the gill and have called on the Welsh government to publish plans for minimising the impact of mergers on different council tax levels.

The April/May 2015 edition of PSE is now available for FREE using the new PSE App, available on iOS and Android. Search ‘Public Sector’ in the App Store / Google Play.

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