Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion councils 'should merge' as part of major local authority shake-up

10:07am Monday 20th January 2014

Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion councils should merge 'as a minimum', a report on the future of local authorities in Wales says.

The Williams Commission says councils should be merged leaving 10, 11 or 12 local authorities rather than the current set-up of 22 Welsh councils.

The changes should be agreed at Easter at the latest, the report states.

The minimum suggested by the Commission - headed by former NHS Wales chief executive Paul Williams - would see Carmarthenshire remain unchanged but Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion councils would merge.

Another option would be to merge Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire - retunring to form of the previous Dyfed adminstration.

Council leader Jamie Adams said today: “We are currently giving the report detailed consideration and it will be interesting to hear the Welsh Government’s response to it.

“As I have said previously, I believe the projected benefits are superficial. It is a gamble and with every gamble there is a risk.

“My immediate concerns are the risk to services and also the cost in the end to the Council Taxpayers of Pembrokeshire.”

Last week, when the changes were first mooted, Cllr Adams had said: “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.”

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