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Caerphilly Council to oppose plans to merge with Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent

Published in News at 09:45, Thursday September 18th, 2014. Last updated at 09:48, Thursday September 18th, 2014

By Gareth Hill

Caerphilly Council's headquarters in Tredomen

NO THANKS: Councillors have said no to a planned merger with Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent

Caerphilly County Borough Council looks set to reject proposals to merge with Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen county borough councils.

Members of the local authority’s Cabinet will recommend that it “stands alone” as part of any future plans to merge local authorities in Wales.

The Williams Commission report, published in January this year, outlined plans to merge some of Wales’ 22 councils but Cabinet members said any merger would be a “step backwards”, and that there were “few, if any, tangible benefits to the residents of Caerphilly County Borough”.

Cllr Keith Reynolds, Leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council, said: “We have an excellent track record of delivering services and being a well run authority that is financially very well managed.

“This is evidenced by the results of the Welsh Government’s recent National Survey for Wales, which highlights that residents are pleased with the standards of the services we deliver. We have managed to deal with any emergencies that have arisen and overall we’re in a very strong position to be able to stand alone.

“We want to send a strong message to everyone that this Cabinet’s overriding view is that we will be looking for the authority to press the case to Welsh Government for a standalone solution as far as this authority is concerned.”

Steve Thomas, the Chief Executive of the Welsh Local Government Association, said: “From our point of view that is a decision taken locally and we respect that. My understanding is Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent are not keen on the Caerphilly option either.

“There’s all sorts of configurations that could emerge, but the bottom line is the substantial cost of £200m.”

He added that the Welsh Government could not expect local authorities to fork out for the cost, given the vast savings and cut backs councils are being asked to make.

Caerphilly Observer understands a number of Caerphilly Labour councillors are in favour of merging, meaning the Cabinet’s recommendations may not be easily passed by council.

Labour Councillor for Blackwood Allan Rees, said the Cabinet’s decision, while taken in the best interests of Caerphilly, does not consider the long-term benefits for Wales.

He said: “The problem with the NHS and our services is that they are too fragmented. In Gwent we have five local authorities five cabinets and you cannot link strategy.

“There’s going to be a massive funding gap within local authorities in the future. For local authorities to come together and merge public services, this would have a long-term positive effect on Caerphilly.”

Cllr Rees also suggested that job losses and redundancies resulting from a merger would affect skilled staff who would be able to find new work.

He said: “There needs to be a flattening of the pay gap in local authorities and a merger will mean less management. Any redundancies will come from medium and high management, so there will still be a need for the majority of the general workforce.”

Cllr Colin Mann, Leader of the Plaid Cymru opposition group, said the party would make a decision on their stance at a meeting on September 22, before full council decides its response on September 29.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are currently consulting on proposals for reforming local government. While merging councils is part of those proposals, so too is the need to strengthen democracy, improve scrutiny and use good performance information to create effective and improving local services.

“We look forward to receiving the council’s formal response to the consultation in due course.”

Steve Thomas, Deputy Leader and Executive Business Manager of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, said: “Blaenau Gwent does not consider Caerphilly’s position a snub.

“All Councils are currently assessing their options and Blaenau Gwent is no different as we carefully consider our next steps. We will respond to the Welsh Government White Paper on Reforming Local Government by October 1 2014.”

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  • Mark O’Neill

    Clearly this HAS to be done as Blaenau Gwent cannot stand alone for much longer. It is simply daft in this era that some councils are against this.

    • Trefor Bond

      It will be done, fact. Caerphilly Council can throw whatever toys they like out of the pram but the Assembhly WILL win.

      Mark, what on earth gives the impression that any other Council would want to join forces with Caerphilly Council?, soon to go on trial, and have further dirty linen washed in public!.

      • Cllr Richard Williams

        The winner, of course, will be the Welsh Assembly. Among the losers wil be the people of the town of Caerffili. The political clout of Gwent has been growing for forty years, we have Gwent based health care and lost out hospital three years ago. We have lost our police station and in these columns our MP is describing the planned loss of our law court as “a back of an envelope decision”, which it most certainly is.

        I am not a big fan of Caerffili County Borough Council, which I believe itself was a poor construction. We need to learn lessons from the past here and though reorganisation is desirable we should return to the county system. Using the preserved counties would deliver 8, if memory serves, county councils in Wales. These at least would take into account the history and demography of Wales and would serve us better than just another revision intended to save money and satisfy the Health Authorities, who themselves are in for an all mighty shake up within the next few years as their failure to deliver satisfactory health care becomes more and more apparent.

  • Trefor Bond

    Caerphilly Borough Council on a head on collision course with Lieghton Andrews the Minister in the Welsh Assembly with responsibility to ensure Caerphilly Council do what they are told what do on this subject. Any bets on the winner????

    • Dean

      Labour councilors in Caerphilly and Labour AM’s in the Assembly. I don’t think it’s a case of ‘who will win?’ but more a case of ‘when will the true colours show?’ How many local councilors are really against such a merger? Do they even care provided they are still paid and have ‘power’?

  • Paul.

    There he goes again Cllr Keith Reynolds quoting The National Survey for Wales, 14’500 people take part in this hand picked survey, that’s less than 1% of the population of Wales, so from this survey according to Cllr Keith Reynolds less than 1% of the people who live in Wales are pleased with the standards of services that councils deliver which therefore means 99% of people living in Wales are not pleased with the standards of services that councils deliver, which is about right.

  • Allan Rees

    Hi, I would just like to say that the above should read: The problem with the NHS and our “social” services is that they are too fragmented. In Gwent we have five local authorities, five scrutiny committees and five cabinets and you cannot link strategy to one health board.

    • Cllr Richard Williams

      Absolutely correct Allan and the answer may be to reinstate the preserved counties, 8 in number, abolish the 7 Welsh health boards who currently struggle to provide a service and create 8 new boards that fit in exactly with the county councils they serve.

      This would end the ridiculous situation where somebody in Caerffili, instead of travelling to a teaching hospital 6 miles away for treatment has to travel to Royal Gwent which is double that distance purely because of an artificial construct which has placed the town in a different county to that which it belongs.