The Welsh Government has abandoned plans to merge local councils.
Proposals introduced last year could have seen the number of authorities cut from 22 to a minimum of eight or nine. But local government secretary Mark Drakeford said he now favoured getting councils to work together and provide key services on a regional basis.
It was believed the plans included a similar model based on the make up of Welsh councils before the 1996 boundary changes – with Denbighshire as part of ‘Clwyd’ and Conwy county merging into a larger Gwynedd.
Last year, the then-Public Services Minister, Leighton Andrews, rejected three volunary mergers among Welsh councils, including Conwy and Denbighshire. In May this year, he lost his Assembly seat to Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood in the Rhondda.
On Tuesday, Mr Drakeford said the 22 authorities would continue as the democratic tier of local government – but it’s expected that social and education services will be based on the borders of the seven health boards (such as Betsi Cadwaladr in the North). Transport and economic development would be organised on a city region basis.
Mr Drakeford said: ”I’m conscious local government has been through a period of extended uncertainty about its future and the corrosive impact this has on morale…we now have an approach on a possible way forward. This would retain existing local authorities – the “front door” through which people access services – but with key services being delivered regionally. Behind this front door, we would have an enhanced level of mandatory and systematic regional working. This will give local authorities more resilience in terms of staffing and finance and also ensure that services are planned and delivered on the right scale.”
The minister also confirmed that local council elections – including those in Conwy and Denbighshire – will go ahead as planned next May.