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Call for clarity on council mergers

councilWITH the deadline approaching for local authorities to set out proposals for voluntary mergers, the Welsh Government has confirmed a timetable for final decisions and elections. At Assembly question time on Wednesday (Oct 8), Joyce Watson AM asked Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews to clarify plans for upcoming elections to local authorities, whether or not they choose to merge with neighbouring councils. Joyce Watson asked:“It seems difficult to set out clear timetables for local elections until we know where we are with voluntary mergers.

However, will you confirm that elections to existing local authorities will take place in May 2017 and that those authorities who merge voluntarily will have their elections in May 2018? Are you confident that local representatives and voters are equally clear about that?” The Welsh Government set out plans for sweeping changes to local government in the Reforming Local Government White Paper, which it consulted on from 8 July to 1 October. Local Authorities have until 28 November to come forward with voluntary merger plans. In west Wales, Pembrokeshire County Council is exploring a potential merger with Ceredigion. That is despite Ceredigion councillors rejecting the idea in a unanimous vote last month.

Meanwhile, Carmarthenshire Council’s Labour leader Kevin Madge has said the county should continue as a standalone authority. In answer to Mrs Watson, Mr Andrews said: “The Member is right, and the onus is on local authorities to indicate whether they are going to come forward with voluntary merger proposals. “Voluntary merged councils will not have elections in 2017; unmerged councils will. Voluntary merged councils will vest in April 2018, having been set up in shadow form in April 2017, and they will have elections in May 2018.

The first elections for the remaining new authorities will be in May 2019, with shadow authorities and shadow councils established and vesting day for those new authorities would then be in April 2020. In May 2022, full local government elections for all authorities would be held.” “I look forward to receiving many expressions of interest by November 28.”