Wales politics

Clarity sought by WLGA over proposed council mergers

The body representing Welsh councils wants clarity from the first minister on plans to merge local authorities.

The Williams Commission, set up by the Welsh government, published a report in January recommending the 22 councils should be merged to between 10 and 12.

The report also called for cross-party agreement on the way forward by Easter but it has not happened and the Welsh government is targeting the summer.

But the Welsh Local Government Association wants a clear timescale.

"The longer this drags on the more problematic it gets," the WLGA's chief executive Steve Thomas told Sunday Politics Wales.

"It seems to me that we're in a position where the Williams proposals are essentially contested by the political parties across Wales.

"They are contested within local government and that inevitably has slowed things down.

"I think we now do need a very clear timescale for how the report's going to be implemented.

"We've got 150,000 employees in Welsh local government, we can't just have the sword of Damocles hanging over them for the next five or six years.

"I think the idea that this was going to be signed, sealed and delivered by Easter in time for our eggs was all very optimistic."

As part of a wider review of how public services work in Wales, the Williams Commission said change should happen "quickly and decisively".

'Disappointed'

Former leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh assembly Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth is a member of the commission and said he was "disappointed the momentum seems to have been lost" since the fanfare which accompanied the report's publication.

First Minister Carwyn Jones insists he wants an agreement between the parties on a post-reorganisation map of Welsh councils but Plaid Cymru's local government spokesman says that is unlikely.

"What he wants is a Labour party map," said Plaid's Rhodri Glyn Thomas.

"We can't be put in a position where we are being asked to sign up to something which is agreed within the Labour Party and which happens to suit the Labour Party."

Asked whether the Mr Jones's aim of cross-party agreement on a new map can be met by the summer, he added: "I doubt that very much at the moment."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "While it is important we move swiftly it is essential that we take the time necessary to get this right.

"Ongoing cross-party discussions are an important part of this process in order for us to work towards a consensus."

Sunday Politics Wales, BBC One Wales, Sunday at 11:00 BST

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