Laura Sharman 25 November 2015

Welsh council mergers could save £650m but 2,000 jobs at risk

Cutting the number of councils in Wales from 22 to eight or nine would deliver savings of £650m over ten years, according to figures published by the Welsh Government.

The Draft Local Government (Wales) Bill, published yesterday, claims the reforms would pay for themselves within two to three years and would deliver additional savings through the sale of surplus assets.

‘Our vision for local government is for activist councils, engaged in delivering modern, accessible, high quality public services with their local communities,’ said Public services minister, Leighton Andrews.

‘This draft bill sets out a programme of reform to secure the future of local government in Wales. We want to see councils which are vibrant, strong, flexible, open and transparent - councils with vision, great leadership and passion, working effectively with the public service workforce and their communities to improve services, improve lives and improve places.’

However, council leaders warned the proposals could see up to 2,000 jobs lost, in addition to the 8,000 jobs already cut since 2010. They also added the bill does not address the issue of council tax harmonisation or how councils can meet the financial challenges they face over the next five years.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), said: spokesperson said: ‘The WLGA hopes that this legislation will deliver the Welsh Government’s stated intention to free-up local authorities from a stifling bureaucracy and regulation. Local authorities have long called for flexibility to respond to the huge cuts and pressures and anything that adds to the growing trend of centralisation in Wales would not be welcomed in this context.

‘The WLGA will therefore debate this Draft Bill fully and judge it against the principles of localism as outlined in our manifesto published yesterday.’

The bill is the start of a formal consultation process on the proposed mergers, and is scheduled to be introduced to the Assembly in autumn 2016.

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