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Welsh councils hail ditching of plans to reduce number from 22 to 8 or 9

Councils in Wales have reacted positively to an announcement by the new Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, Mark Drakeford AM, that plans to cut the number of councils from 22 to 8 or 9 are to be revised, with new proposals to be put forward in the autumn.

The proposals had met with strong resistance among local authorities in Wales.

Drakeford told BBC Sunday Politics Wales that he was "not committed to any particular solution... we've got to be prepared to have a wider sort of conversation".

"People are very willing to agree that there are challenges facing local government that have to be faced up to and have to be solved. Lines on a map is part of it, but only one part of it.”

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He added: "The reality is that we couldn't in the last assembly - and we know that we couldn't in this assembly - summon the votes together to put that map into legislation.

"We must accommodate ourselves to that reality and find a different way forward."

A spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association said: “Local government warmly welcomes the approach being taken by the new Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, Mark Drakeford AM. The WLGA has already held positive discussions with him, and he is engaging council leaders in a constructive conversation on the future of local government in Wales.

“The world has moved on significantly since the Williams Commission published its initial recommendations for local government back in April 2013. Many of the potential savings attributed to reorganisation have been realised, and waiting another four years for structural change would create a debilitating stasis within our local councils.”

The spokesperson added: “Councils now want to move on and dedicate themselves to transforming services, meeting the challenges of continued austerity and delivering innovative news forms of regional working which will see radical new approaches to service delivery.

“New developments like the Capital Region City Deal, Swansea Bay Region, North Wales Economic Ambition Board, Mersey-Dee Alliance and the Growing Mid Wales partnership are all based on local councils coming together at the regional level. These developments have been locally led, are maturing quickly and have the potential to offer vast benefits to our local communities without the eye-watering costs of any ‘big bang’ local government reorganisation.

“Previous plans and maps are now off the table. The Cabinet Secretary has confirmed he is looking to explore a new way forward regarding local government reform. The WLGA looks forward to working in partnership with Welsh Government to redefine the reorganisation debate in a way that will empower local councils to get on with the job of integrating health and social care, transforming key services, growing their local economies and delivering the best possible public services for their local communities.”

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