Minister throws out county merger plans
ALL three plans for voluntary council mergers in Wales were left on the scrapheap on Tuesday after the Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews threw them out.
Mr Andrews had received merger proposals from Conwy and Denbighshire, as well as from the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend, and from Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen.
Opposition AMs and the leader of Denbighshire council claimed that the public service minister was moving away from the map of the future of local government proposed by last year’s Williams Commission.
The first minister Carwyn Jones said that while the Williams Commission map was preferred, it wasn’t definitive, and called for party leaders to meet with him to share what they want to see happen.
In a written statement the public services minis- ter has told AMs that he doesn’t think that any of the expressions of interest received sufficiently meets the Welsh Government’s criteria for moving ahead to prepare a full voluntary merger proposal.
Aberconwy Tory AM Janet Finch-Saunders called it a “bizarre decision” and a “slap in the face for those councils that have done the work and come forward voluntarily”.
The leader of Denbighshire suggested the move meant Mr Andrews wasn’t interested in the Williams Commission proposal and wants something else.
“We had also received feedback from the Minister’s advisors that the Expressions of Interest for a voluntary merger between Conwy and Denbighshire would be endorsed... The Minister clearly has a different map in mind and it would have been fairer to us for this to have been made clear,” said Councillor Hugh Evans.
First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “Williams is still the preferred map but not the definitive map.
“I will be asking the party leaders in the course of the next few weeks to meet with me in order to have a better assessment of what they think the map should look like.”
Mr Andrews told the Senedd chamber on Tuesday that he “simply wasn’t prepared” to rubber stamp any expression of interest that came before him.
“What would have been irresponsible would have been to put through any expression of interest in which have no confidence and subsequently jettisoned it at the next stage,” he said.
He spelled out that, in the case of Conwy and Denbighshire, he had concerns about the robustness of the expressions of interest, said there were areas which required significant extra work, that the expressions of interest did not set out a clear vision for the new authority, and said he was concerned of the lack of engagement and consultation.
Members of the Llandudno in Bloom committee next to one of their floral displays outside the town hall