Wales politics

'Grow up' over council shakeup plans, says Leighton Andrews

Council maps 2015 - and possible reorganised maps for 2016

People need to "grow up" in their opposition to cutting the number of local authorities, Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews has said.

Mr Andrews said councils had been given "every opportunity" to agree on a new map but had failed to do so.

A consultation on the proposals to cut the number of councils from 22 to eight or nine is due to end on Monday.

Labour AM Alun Davies said telling people to grow up was probably not the best way to get consensus.

There was "titanic disagreement" on what the future structure should be, Mr Davies added.

Giving evidence to the local government committee, Mr Andrews criticised the lack of ambition and lack of agreement from council leaders.

"Everybody can agree on local government re-organisation but nobody is prepared to agree on what it should look like," he said.

"That is not a sustainable position. People need to grow up, bluntly and we need to get agreement on this as soon as we can after the May election because as the trade unions have said, this is leading to some demoralisation among staff who want to know what the way forward is.

"We have given every opportunity to local government to agree on a map, they cannot agree so we as a national assembly are going to have to make those decisions and legislate on those decisions in the next assembly."

Image caption Leighton Andrews has a reputation for plain speaking

Mr Andrews also attacked the chief executive of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) Steve Thomas for telling the committee it took longer to change councils across Wales than to defeat the Nazis in Europe.

"This kind of rhetoric is unhelpful because we can all indulge in it," Mr Andrews said.

"I can indulge in it just as much as the chief executive of the Welsh Local Government Association. Does it get us anywhere? No it doesn't."

As well as expressing concern about the time re-organisation had taken, Mr Thomas said the debate about structures, which he said had been a "movable feast", had been too narrow.

"The problem is it's been a movable feast, hasn't it, and that movable feast has been partly dictated by the debate in this place itself [the assembly],and it's been partly dictated by the unanswered questions in terms of the cost," he added.

If Labour are still in power after May, a bill will be presented to the assembly in the autumn, with a view to the changes being forced through with legislation.

Mr Andrews said he thought the most likely prospect of political agreement on re-organisation was between Labour and Plaid Cymru in the next assembly.

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