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Welsh government urges councils to merge voluntarily

The minister for public services, Leighton Andrews AM, told the Welsh Assembly today how he plans to modernise and merge local authorities in Wales.

Andrews told assembly members that the Welsh government’s aim is to bring about fundamental and lasting change with new voluntarily merged authorities in place by April 2018.

The report from the Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery, published earlier this year, recommended mergers between councils and a reduction in numbers from the current 22 to 10 or 12.

Andrews said that the report was “sobering” and “provides a compelling case for change”.

“While the Welsh government has protected local authorities from the worst of the UK government’s spending cuts in recent years, and the average band D council tax bill in 2014-2015 here is £193 lower than in England, continuing to provide services in the current configuration – salami-slicing more efficiencies and cutting services in isolation – is not sustainable.

“We cannot continue to operate with 22 local authorities. There will be change, voluntary or not, and I am offering a unique opportunity to those who are willing.

“I want local authorities themselves to make fundamental and lasting change to create modern and effective local government in Wales.

“I hope they seize this opportunity since those who agree to merge voluntarily will determine their own future and will not face elections until May 2018.”

The minister will go into further detail on funds to incentivise voluntary mergers next month after the Provisional Local Government Settlement is announced.

Andrews was appointed minister for public service earlier this month in a cabinet reshuffle by first minister Carwyn Jones. He previously had served as education minister before resigning in June 2013 following a row over his defence of a school in his Rhondda constituency which faced closure under his own surplus places policy.

(Image: c. Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

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