The Welsh Labour Government’s local councils supremo – Mark Drakeford – is now to make a new statement on the Welsh Government’s plans for reducing the number of local authorities in Wales and – potentially – merging the Vale of Glamorgan Council with Cardiff Council.
The Welsh Government had been acting on a report it had commissioned from Sir Paul Williams – the so-called “Williams Report” which had recommended that the existing 22 councils in Wales be reduced to ” 8 or 9” through a series of mergers.
The Labour-run Vale of Glamorgan Council however, resisted the recommendations in the report for it to merge with Cardiff Council – putting it at odds with the Labour-run Welsh Government.
But then came the Welsh Assembly elections in May this year in which the man leading the charge to force the councils to merge – Assembly Member Leighton Andrews – lost his safe Labour seat to Plaid Cymru .
The Labour Party failed to win a majority in the Assembly – and failed to get Labour Leader Carwyn Jones automatically re-elected as First Minister when – evidently to his discomfiture – Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood attracted an equal number of the votes of Assembly Members, making the outcome a tie.
A coalition deal was then stitched together with the LibDems’ single remaining AM – Kirsty Williams – which enabled Labour to form a government as the largest party, but it meant that the council merger plans were put on hold.
Now Carmarthenshire Council’s leader , Emlyn Dole, has said Local Government Minister Mark Drakeford has assured him that Carmarthenshire Council will remain unmerged for “at least 10 years” and that existing councils will remain as they are unless “they want to merge” .
UKIP assembly group leader Neil Hamilton says “It is utterly bizarre that we can make all the arrangements needed to leave the EU within two years, but it will take local councils more than 10 years to agree on joint working for tasks like rubbish collection or pot-hole filling.”
Janet Finch Saunders – who is local government spokesperson for the Conservatives in the Assembly – says “If Labour’s planned council mergers have been shelved for up to a decade then it will be very humbling indeed for the First Minister, whose government used up a lot of capital trying to force them through“.