Wales politics

Getting moving on council reshaping in Wales

It felt like the morning after the day before at the assembly in the wake of the Williams Commission which recommended halving the number of councils.

I'm sure it felt like that in many council offices as well throughout Wales.

In effect, Carwyn Jones said on Monday that where there's a will there's a way.

In other words, he said that any new law required for council re-organisation in Wales could be pushed through at the assembly if there is cross-party support.

Today we got an indication of how difficult that will be for Labour, particularly in the time frame that's been discussed.

The report's author, Paul Williams, has said he'd like to see talks about the merger process to be held with councils before Easter.

'Work together'

Plaid Cymru have probably been the most open to the idea of change. The issue will be discussed at the party's national council next month.

In the meantime, they'd be open to discussions but first gave called for an official response from the Welsh government.

On the issue of getting agreement and pushing legislation through before the next assembly elections, Simon Thomas, the party's spokesman on education, said: "Yes it's do-able but it's only do-able if people work together."

It may be a statement of the obvious but what's become clear is how tricky that could be for the Welsh government.

Simon Thomas said he favoured a three-county merger in west Wales to re-create Dyfed.

'Failed reorganisations'

Williams left the door open on this. The report recommended a merger between Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, with Carmarthenshire potentially remaining a stand-alone authority, or joining up with the others.

Plaid would also like to see changes to the voting system for local authority elections, such as the introduction of the single transferable vote system that exists in Scotland, which is a form of PR voting.

The Conservatives appear the most opposed to the proposals. The leader Andrew RT Davies is sceptical about the effectiveness of larger councils and believes social care should be put in the hands of the Welsh NHS.

As both were pointedly not the main recommendations of the Williams review, it seems the Tories will struggle to agree, although they haven't come out and explicitly said so. Their main message was calling for an official response from ministers.

The AM for Monmouthshire, Nick Ramsay, said: "The history of local government is one of failed re-organisations."

And the Liberal Democrats have spoken about local government re-organisation being desirable but very difficult to achieve in the time frame.

Again the Lib Dems will be keen to see changes in the voting system for councils, which will inevitably be strongly opposed by Labour.