Wales politics

Labour row breaks out over local council reorganisation

Leighton Andrews Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption Leighton Andrews could publish a new map of local councils as early as next week

Senior Labour council figures have asked ministers to water down plans to slash the number of Welsh councils.

It came at a heated meeting with First Minister Carwyn Jones and Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews.

A new-look local government map may be published as early as next week.

Several council sources have told BBC Wales they asked for the map to be dropped and some suggested the row may lead to councillors not campaigning for Labour in the 2016 assembly election.

Working together

Last year a cross-party commission recommended cutting the number of councils from 22 to as few as ten - although there is speculation the Welsh government could go further.

Image caption Ministers want a radical shake-up of the way local councils work, not just their boundaries

Many of the councillors present at Wednesday's meeting in Cardiff Bay want to see a greater emphasis on councils working together, rather than on forcing authorities to merge.

But a Welsh government source told BBC Wales the attitude of the councillors had in fact strengthened its will to press ahead with the merger plans.

'Frenzy'

A senior Labour source in local government said: "It is not too late to save the situation.

"They need to say what savings are required and to propose the maximum and the minimum number of authorities and then make a manifesto commitment.

"Then they should be in a position to make decisions with all concerned and carry out a wider consultation to find a sensible way forward.

"Carwyn Jones should announce a very general plan and not get everyone in a frenzy, try to do the best he can in the assembly election and consult on re-organisation of local government.

"He needs the foot soldiers now. It's expensive having leaflets delivered by independent agencies. They have got to think about it.

"Why work everyone into a frenzy when you can save the situation?"

Another Labour local government source told BBC Wales: "It's the wrong time for a new map - we should be concentrating on services.

"How can we have one eye on shrinking budgets and another on re-organisation?

"They shouldn't publish a map next week because if they do they will annoy a huge amount of rank-and-file members who they will expect to campaign for them [in next year's assembly election campaign]".

After Wednesday's meeting Flintshire council deputy leader Bernie Attridge tweeted: "Time to give some serious thought, if this is the Labour Party I want to be part of!", "Some very angry Members!".

Welsh Labour declined to comment.

A Welsh government spokeswoman said a new council map would be published before the assembly recess, in July.

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