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Will local councils merge?

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• ‘No way’ says CeredigionPembs-CC
• ‘Maybe’ says Pembrokeshire

IN RESPONSE to a Welsh government consultation, the councillors voted to keep Ceredigion Council as a distinct Local Authority body to be able to ensure local accountability and democracy. First Minister Carwyn Jones supports The Williams Commission which earlier this year said the number of Welsh councils should be cut. This involves replacing the 22 current Welsh authorities with 12. The Welsh Government’s White Paper was published by then Local Government Minister Lesley Griffiths in July. This was basically the beginning of the legal process plotting how everything will happen which then paved the way mergers of councils willing to do so voluntarily.

October 1 is closing date for responses. Ceredigion Council Leader Ellen ap Gwyn has made it clear that the authority are sending a clear message to the government: “Merging with any other authority would weaken local accountability. Enlarging wards and reducing democratic representation will militate against good local delivery of bilingual services in a rural area. There is no cultural or linguistic affinity with with the proposed enlarged local authority area.” Ceredigion Council are among many but is the most recent authority to reject a voluntary merger. Newport has also voted against saying they do not want to merge with Monmouthshire whilst Wrexham has shown willing to join with Flintshire.

Conwy and Denbighshire are still evaluating their options. It has been said by Conwy’s Deputy Leader Ronnie Hughes that the merger would give the authority more control over its future than if it waited and was forced into the merge in two years time. Although Leighton Andrews, minister of public services has said that the Welsh Government will support councils with early mergers, including using ‘existing funding streams’ and identifying ‘appropriate financial resources’, Caerphilly has rejected to merge with Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen whilst Anglesey has similarly objected to merging with Gwynedd. In light of the recent statements by the Public Services Minister, the Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, Councillor Jamie Adams, has announced his intention to commence formal discussions regarding the future of local government in Pembrokeshire.

“It is now clear that the Welsh Government intend to legislate to force reorganisation upon us” he said. “While I do not agree that local government reorganisation is necessary, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that it is likely to happen. “With this in mind, I intend to establish a cross-party working group of Councillors to consider the merits of a voluntary merger with Ceredigion County Council.

“I understand that Ceredigion Councillors are opposed to a merger, and I respect their point of view. However, I do not think this is an issue that we can, or should, ignore. “We have spent too long recently looking in at ourselves. It is high time that we raised our heads and started to plan for what’s coming down the track towards us.” While Ceredigion has rejected a council merger with Pembrokeshire, it seems that Welsh Minister for Public Services Leighton Andrews is prepared to force through change in the teeth of resistance from Wales’ local government sector. It seems as though Council Leader Jamie Adams has taken a view of the future and decided to argue Pembrokeshire’s case for independence in local government less forcefully than before.

Speaking to The Herald after Monday’s Corporate Governance Committee, Cllr Mike James told us that Mr Andrews told representatives at a recent meeting of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) that ‘they hadn’t seen nothing yet.’ Last week, Leighton Andrews issued a press release saying: “We cannot continue to operate with 22 local authorities. There will be change, voluntary or not, and I am offering a unique opportunity to those who are willing. I want local authorities themselves to make fundamental and lasting change to create modern and effective Local Government in Wales.

I hope they seize this opportunity since those who agree to merge voluntarily will determine their own future and will not face elections until May 2018.” The promise of initiating new primary legislation to delay Council elections for those authorities willing to merge might be a significant incentive for existing councillors to extend a stay in local government that could otherwise be curtailed by the electorate a year earlier. Bribing councillors to do as the Welsh Government wishes, ahead of the completion of the work of a supposedly independent and unbiased consultation, raises questions about the integrity of the Welsh Government’s whole approach to the question of how to reorganize Welsh local democracy.

In response to Leighton Andrews’ statement, a vote of Ceredigion County Council unanimously rejected calls to merge its operations with Pembrokeshire. Ceredigion Council Leader Ellen ap Gwyn said: “A business case does not exist to support a merger between Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. Everyone agreed that the proposal does not make geographical sense and grave concern was expressed regarding the cultural and linguistic difference between the two counties,” she added. The council is the latest authority to reject a voluntary merger.

Newport has also said it does not want to merge with Monmouthshire while Wrexham has signalled it is unwilling to join with Flintshire Striking a more conciliatory note than hitherto used in his public statements, Council Leader Jamie Adams said: In light of the recent statements by the Public Services Minister, the Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, Councillor Jamie Adams, has announced his intention to commence formal discussions regarding the future of local government in Pembrokeshire. Ahead of releasing the statement to the press, he told Monday’s Corporate Governance Committee: “It is now clear that Welsh Government intend to legislate to force reorganisation upon us” he said.

“While I do not agree that local government reorganisation is necessary, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that it is likely to happen. With this in mind, I intend to establish a crossparty working group of Councillors to consider the merits of a voluntary merger with Ceredigion County Council. I understand that Ceredigion Councillors are opposed to a merger, and I respect their point of view. However, I do not think this is an issue that we can, or should, ignore. We have spent too long recently looking in at ourselves. It is high time that we raised our heads and started to plan for what’s coming down the track towards us.” Whether Jamie Adams will be able to deliver consensus across his increasingly bitterly divided council is likely to be a major test of his and his party’s resolve in the face of widespread public support for Pembrokeshire’s autonomy.

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David Davies Llandinam show comes to Tregaron

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THERE will be a special opportunity for the people of Tregaron to learn about one of Wales’ most successful industrialists, David Davies Llandinam with a performance by the drama company “Mewn Cymeriad”.

To celebrate David Davies’ link with the area, Cered: Menter Iaith Ceredigion, Cymdeithas Hanes Tregaron and Clwb Plant Capel Bwlchgwynt have organised a performance of the family friendly show “David Davies Llandinam”.

David Davies was born in Llandinam, Montgomeryshire but he had an influence across Wales. He built railways across the country including the Manchester and Milford Railway that connected Tregaron with Aberystwyth and Carmarthen by using a huge amount of Cardiganshire wool to lay the rails across Cors Caron.

In addition to being an astoundingly successful entrepreneur, David Davies Llandinam was the MP for Cardiganshire between 1874 and 1886. Nine years previously, he stood against one of Tregaron’s hero, Henry Richard to be the local Liberal Party candidate for the 1865 Election.

Councillor Catherine Hughes, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Culture, “The history of David Davies Llandinam is very interesting. It’s wonderful to see organisations coming together to put on this show in Tregaron and Mewn Cymeriad following this character’s fascinating story.”

Mewn Cymeriad is a drama company that travels across Wales to present one actor shows full of fun and excitement to children about historic characters such as Barti Ddu, the Lord Rhys, Hedd Wyn and Owain Glyndŵr. The David Davies show was written by Mewn Cymeriad’s founder Eleri Twynog Davies and the show is performed by the actor Ioan Hefin who has starred in programmes such as Hidden, Gwaith Cartref and Teulu.

The free show of David Davies Llandinam will be shown at Bwlchgwynt Vestry, Tregaron on Monday, 29 October at 7pm. Come to see the actor Ioan Hefin present a lively and interactive show about the man who brought the train to Tregaron. It is an interactive show that is aimed towards children aged 6 to 11 however it is suitable for the whole family.

For further Information, contact Steffan Rees, Cered’s Community Development Officer on 01545 572 350.

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Visit to inspect new Active Travel works held

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SUSTRANS CYMRU director, Steve Brooks visited recent work to the Aberystwyth Active Travel Network on 26 September. The network of pedestrian, cycling and general accessibility improvements has been developed in partnership with the Welsh Government and Sustrans.

Mr Brooks met with Councillor Alun Williams, Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for Adult Services and the Council’s Sustainability Champion, as well as Council Officers. During the visit they discussed the work carried out so far and future work to improve the Active Travel Network in Ceredigion.

Councillor Williams praised the work undertaken to date, “It was a pleasure to meet with Sustrans colleagues and County Council officers. The excellent work that the County Council has done so far in Aberystwyth was showcased, with the aim of encouraging children to cycle, scoot and walk to school. The improvements do of course benefit everyone in the community by helping to encourage healthier and more active lifestyles whilst reducing traffic congestion and we had a useful discussion about further developing active travel initiatives across the whole of Ceredigion.”

Three towns in Ceredigion have been designated as Active Travel Settlements under the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. The Council carried out a public consultation during 2017 to identify and prioritise future improvements. As a result, walking and cycling routes are being improved incrementally through various Welsh Government grants as funding permits and subject to physical constraint.

Steve Brooks said, “Plascrug Primary is one of many schools in Ceredigion where Sustrans’ Active Journeys Programme is delivered and it’s great to see the positive difference made at these locations, in conjunction with improved routes and new scooter and cycle shelters installed by the County Council following successful grant funding from the Welsh Government. The Programme includes classroom activities where pupils can help influence future grant bids and also embraces a range of engaging activities which helps to build the confidence, enthusiasm and skills needed to help form new active travel habits. These activities and lessons support schools’ efforts in achieving Eco-Schools and Healthy Schools awards as well as working towards Sustrans School Mark award which recognises excellence in sustainable travel.”

The Council is also improving active travel opportunities outside these three settlements, such as near schools, employment sites and key tourism destinations.

Image: Left to Right: Sioned Lewis, Sustrans Cymru; Plascrug Primary School Pupils; Councillor Alun Williams; Steve Brooks, Sustrans Cymru; Gari Jones, Ceredigion County Council.

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Free parking in Ceredigion for the three Saturdays before Christmas

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PARKNG will be free in all Ceredigion County Council operated Pay and Display car parks on the three Saturdays preceding Christmas this year.

The development follows a decision made the by the Council’s Cabinet on 16 October 2018. Parking charges at Council operated Pay and Display car parks will be waived on 8, 15 and 22 December 2018.

The Cabinet Member responsible for Highways and Environmental Services, Councillor Dafydd Edwards said, “Christmas is a very important time of year for many small businesses in our towns. This decision will support people to prepare for the festivities locally and help small businesses compete with the increasing influence of online shopping.”

The decision contributes towards one of the Council’s corporate priorities of boosting the economy.

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