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06/10/2016

Welsh minister proposes regional planning service

Words: Roger Milne
Mark Drakeford / National Assembly for Wales

The Welsh Government has binned plans to force local authorities in Wales to merge but will require them to work together regionally to deliver key services like planning and economic development.

The number of local authorities will remain at 22, although the Welsh Government said it would support any voluntary mergers. The Welsh Government had previously sought to reduce the number of councils to eight or nine.

The proposed new way of regional and sub-regional working will be “systematic and mandatory”, local government secretary Mark Drakeford told members of the Welsh Assembly this week.

He insisted that continuing austerity meant local government reform remained “a requirement, not a choice.”

Drakeford explained that after talks with all existing 22 local authorities and other interested parties a new approach was being formulated.

“This would retain existing local authorities – the ‘front door’ through which people access services – but with key services being delivered regionally.

“Behind this front door, we would have an enhanced level of mandatory and systematic regional working. This will give local authorities more resilience in terms of staffing and finance and also ensure that services are planned and delivered on the right scale.

“It has been suggested to me that we have two models to deliver these services; one based around city regions covering strategic transport, land use planning and economic development and another aligned to health boards for services such as education improvement, social services and public protection.“

Drakeford said that he hoped to have agreement on the reform package by the New Year.

PICTURE CREDIT | NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR WALES

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