A REPORT due to go before the Welsh Government could recommend slashing the number of local authorities in the country by half.
According to investigative website Wales Eye, a source ‘very close’ to the Commission of Public Service Governance and Delivery (CPSGD), set up by first minister Carwyn Jones to look ‘thoroughly and objectively’ at public services in Wales, has alleged its report will propose reducing local authorities from the current 22 down to 11. The move could lead to the loss of several hundred councillors and more local services are likely to be merged.
Hundreds of millions of pounds of tax payers’ money could be saved by these measures.
In a recent interview, Mr Jones gave a strong indication that changes would be made, saying ‘almost no-one’ in Welsh politics believes the present structure of 22 local authorities is ultimately viable.
Compared to other areas in Britain, Wales has a high number of local authorities in proportion to its population.
In a statement to the Western Telegraph, Pembrokeshire County Council Leader Jamie Adams said, assuming speculation regarding the commission’s report is correct, it came as ‘no surprise’ to him that some form of local government reorganisation has been suggested.
“In my view, retaining local democratic representation is of the utmost importance,” said Cllr Adams. “Decisions about Pembrokeshire should be taken in Pembrokeshire. Given that we currently charge, by some margin, the lowest Council Tax in Wales, any merger with another local authority is likely to result in a significant increase in the level of Council Tax Pembrokeshire residents would be expected to pay.”
Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb said he felt ministers in Cardiff should ‘tread carefully’ when it came to creating ‘super-councils’ in Wales.
“Bigger does not always mean beautiful or provide better value for money for that matter,” said Mr Crabb.
“There were very good reasons why local people fought to get Pembrokeshire back from the old Dyfed authority. Many of those reasons are still valid. The merger of the Pembrokeshire Health Board with Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion a few years ago, and the battle for Withybush as a result, provides a pointer as to the risks to local services that could follow the abolition of Pembrokeshire County Council.”
“I will be following the recommendations of the Commission very closely and will raise my concerns with the Welsh Minister.”
Chaired by Sir Paul Williams, a non-executive director of Natural Resources Wales, the commission was scheduled to report its findings at the end of 2013. The report is now likely to be presented within the next few weeks.
The Welsh Government said it would not comment before the report is published.