Carmarthenshire county council 'may not survive re-shuffle'

South Wales Guardian: Carmarthenshire county council 'may not survive re-shuffle' Carmarthenshire county council 'may not survive re-shuffle'

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council's days may be numbered if rumours surrounding a pending report on the future of Welsh local government are to be believed.

In a report due to be published before the end of this month, the Williams commission is expected to recommend halving the number of Welsh county councils – which currently stands at 22.

The commission – chaired by Paul Williams, the former chief executive of NHS Wales – is also expected tor recommend that more services are shared between local authorities.

A national newspaper has reported that "a highly-placed source" claims the commission will recommend a reduction from 22 to 11 councils.

Senior figures on Carmarthenshire County Council have already expressed alarm at the anticipated overhaul of local government, arguing that towns such as Ammanford would lose out in the long term.

Speaking at a meeting of Ammanford town council's finance committee, Cllr Colin Evans suggested local investment would be badly hit if – as has been suggested – Carmarthenshire is merged with Pembrokeshire.

"My fear is that if Carmarthenshire is not going to survive and we end up as part of a bigger authority then how much investment will Ammanford then get? We could find ourselves at the back of the queue again.

"If the number of councils is cut to 10 we will not survive – if it comes down to 12 then we might."

No senior political leader in Wales now believes the present structure for councils is sustainable. Last October First Minister Carwyn Jones indicated there would be changes. He said: "There is almost no-one now who says that the current structure of 22 local authorities is the right one for Wales."

The commission is also expected to confirm that attempts to get councils to co-operate and share services have been limited in their success and have not delivered the savings that were hoped for.

Back in November, Cllr Kevin Madge conceded he might possibly be the last leader of Carmarthenshire county council.

Created in the mid-1990s, the current 22 councils replaced a two-tier structure of district and county councils established by another local government reorganisation in 1974.

"My view is that Carmarthenshire is delivering and operating perfectly well and to go back to the days of Dyfed County Council would be a mistake," he said.

"Dyfed was just to big – the sheer size of the area would mean services would be really stretched."

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