Wales

The changing role of councils in Wales

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Media captionJust how have local authorities changed over the years?

Our councils' roles in our lives have changed dramatically in the last few decades... perhaps without us realising.

Think back to the 1950s and for many people across Wales the council would have dominated their lives. Thousands worked for councils. They lived in council-owned homes; went to work on council-run buses; they had their water from the council; their children went to council run nurseries; their parents were in council-run old peoples' homes.

That is unthinkable now.

There have been many changes since the days when the Morris Minor was the latest in car design.

But perhaps the biggest shake-up was when Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government brought in the Right-to-Buy in the early 1980s.

At a time of rising house prices, council tenants were encouraged to buy the homes they had been renting and were given a hefty discount to boot.

Council estates started to change and the uniformity of council-chosen paint colours and identical frontages gave way to new owners proudly stating their individuality with new front doors.

Image caption Vera Hughes has lived in Cwmbran all her life

Then in the 1990s under Tony Blair's Labour government, housing associations were set up and in many parts of Wales the ownership of council houses was transferred to local not-for-profit housing associations.

Councils still are responsible for housing in some areas but housing associations are now widespread.

Vera Hughes has lived in Cwmbran in Torfaen all her life.

She remembers moving from damp private housing when her mother had TB and has very fond memories of the brand new pre-fab that they moved into in 1953.

They then moved to newly-built council house in the Llantarnam area of Cwmbran, where she still lives, although now its owned by the housing association, Bron Afon.

Mrs Hughes cherishes the rent books she has kept that go back to 1953... they tell the story of social housing in her area. They start as Cwmbran Urban District Council, then Torfaen County Borough Council and now Bron Afon.

The first rent was collected by a council man going from door to door and signing the rent card... and now she is part of a computerised world and automatic payments.

It will be a few months before we know the quality of the services we will get in the future. What we do know is that the pace of change that has enveloped councils in the last few decades is going to continue.

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