THE leader of Vale of Glamorgan Council this week opposed a merger plan with Cardiff put forward to cut the number of Welsh councils.
The Draft Local Government (Wales) Bill published on Tuesday, November 24, aims to cut the councils from 22 to eight or nine by 2020.
But Neil Moore said: “A merger of the Vale of Glamorgan Council with Cardiff was untenable in June and is even more so today.”
He stressed the cultural and geographical differences of the two counties, arguing the Vale “has very different needs to that of the capital city”.
Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews says his plan could see 1,900 administration jobs lost across Wales and the number of councillors falling from 1,253 to between 700 and 900.
The merger could cost up to £268 million, but should pay for itself within two or three years and deliver net savings of £650 million over 10 years, Mr Andrews said.
“Our vision for local government is for activist councils, engaged in delivering modern, accessible, high quality public services with their local communities,” he said.
The Bill proposes that the Vale and Cardiff should merge to become a South Glamorgan Council.
Nut Councillor Moore says there is “no rationale” behind the decision and “such a move would without doubt negatively impact on our excellent track record of high performance and prudent financial management”.
He described the reorganisation of local government in Wales as “a mess of confusion and contradiction from the start”, and has urged the Welsh Government to reconsider.
“Abandon this flawed plan and have a real and meaningful conversation with those who understand local government and who work within it for the benefit of local citizens,” he said.
In February 2015, the Vale of Glamorgan agreed a voluntary merger with Bridgend County Borough Council but this was rejected because the union crossed health board boundaries. However, the latest proposal does just that by merging Bridgend, Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taf.
Cardiff Council hasn’t publicly commented on the latest plan. Leader Phil Bale has focused more on the immediate budgetary challenges.
He said: “I have always believed there are too many local authorities in Wales. However, local government reorganisation isn’t going to address the long-term funding challenges we face. We have to focus now on reshaping and redesigning services and recognise the seriousness of the situation.”
Here are some Welsh party responses to the Bill:
Welsh Conservatives: Janet Finch-Saunders – Aberconwy AM
“We want to see a focus on the true principles, of localism, rather than your map proposals so far, which will see over-centralisation of local government like never before.”
“It has to be with the consent of local people. We want to see the “transparency agenda taken much further.
“This Bill kicks the issues into the long grass, long beyond the next election. The projected savings are more empty promises from a Labour Minister who appears to have plucked a figure up out of thin air.”
Welsh Labour: Alun Davies – Blaenau Gwent AM
“I think it is important that, if we’re seeking to change not simply the structures of local government, but the culture and the integration of local government, we’re able to ensure that each one of these new authorities starts with a strong democratic mandate.
“I would say that would imply a separate vote on the creation of each individual authority.”
Plaid Cymru: Simon Thomas – Mid and West Wales AM
“We don’t agree with it. In accepting that we don’t need to duplicate everything 22 times over in local government and public services, we don’t need to duplicate them eight or nine times either.”
“One thing that is clearly missing from the report is reform of the electoral system. Plaid Cymru is of the view that the electoral system should be reformed in terms of the single transferable vote.”
Welsh Lib Dems: Peter Black – South West Wales AM
“We believe that Wales has too many councils, many of which are too small and are underperforming.”
“There is concern about the timing of this reorganisation. Local councils are facing huge pressures on their services and are having to make very deep cuts in services including education, despite the Welsh Government’s pledge to protect education.
“And yet, this regulatory impact assessment talks of £200 million to £246 million as the cost of this reorganisation, money that will need to be spent before savings can be realised.”