County set to escape merger plans

South Wales Guardian: NO CHANGE: The Williams Commission into the future of local government in Wales has recommended that Carmarthenshire remain unaffected despite fears of the reformation of Dyfed. NO CHANGE: The Williams Commission into the future of local government in Wales has recommended that Carmarthenshire remain unaffected despite fears of the reformation of Dyfed.

A report into the future of local government in Wales has recommended that Carmarthenshire remain unaffected by sweeping changes to the political landscape of the country.

The Williams Commission, carried out by former NHS Wales chief executive Paul Williams, has urged major reforms in the organisation of Wales’ 22 local authorities and suggested a series of mergers which would reduce the number of councils to 11.

Fears had been raised that the report would recommend a reformation of the former Dyfed authority by bringing together Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion.

However, the document has recommended that Carmarthenshire remain a stand-alone authority with Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion forming a single body.

While nothing has yet been set in stone - the report does raise the possibility of the three counties coming together under a single banner once more, Mr Williams appears to favour maintaining Carmarthenshire’s autonomy.

Another option left open by the report would be the bringing together of Swansea with Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend – with the latter pair already earmarked for merger.

The move is aimed at reducing the running costs of the current 22 authorities and the report claims the expense of the mergers – estimated in some quarters to be around £100million – would be met by efficiency savings within 18 months to two-and-a-half years.

The report recommends that the new councils should be formed within current health board and police force areas and fall within the geographical regions governing eligibility for financial aid from the European Union.

Mr Williams’ report said changes must be implemented "quickly and decisively".

"We have reflected very carefully on our findings and conclusions on this issue,” the report said.

“We are well aware that what we propose will incur costs, and will be disruptive and controversial - but we are convinced that doing nothing would be worse."

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "This report addresses many issues that are critical at a time when the need for public services is outstripping the resources available to provide them.

“I have always been clear that the status quo is not an option.”

A spokesman for Carmarthenshire county council said authority chiefs would consider the report and respond in due course.

After more than a decade of fiery debate, the “super county” of Dyfed came into being in 1974 only to be disbanded under yet another local government reorganisation in 1996.

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