The Welsh Liberal Democrats have broadly welcomed the statement this afternoon from Cabinet Secretary Alun Davies AM on local government reorganisation, whilst reminding the Welsh Government that larger local authorities must be accountable to their communities and cannot be based on arbitrary lines on a map.
The debate over local government reform in Wales has been ongoing for several years. In 2015 the Welsh Government proposed reducing the number of local authorities to 8 or 9, whilst since 2016 Mark Drakeford proposed regional working between councils. These latest proposals suggest that these plans have been binned and that another consultation is forthcoming.
Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats commented:
We cautiously welcome these proposals. We believe that 22 local authorities is far too many, fewer larger and stronger local authorities would better deliver services. These councils must be more accountable to their citizens and should be elected via the fairer and more representative Single Transferable Vote system. We urge every council to introduce STV for their elections once the Welsh Government gives them the power to do so.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for a Democratic Wales Baroness Randerson said:
These reforms are an opportunity to better support our councillors. As the number of councillors falls and we look to give councils greater powers, we must ensure that the remaining councillors get the support and remuneration they need. Diversity within Welsh councils is simply not good enough. Only by better supporting and paying our councillors will we get the high quality and diverse slate of councillors we need to effectively represent us.