Anglesey councillors unite to oppose merger call

Anglesey councillors have rejected fresh calls from the Welsh Government to merge the island’s local authority with Gwynedd Council.

Members from both sides of the Llangefni chamber voted on Thursday to dismiss a consultation Green Paper, which proposes cutting the number of Welsh councils from 22 to ten.

An Anglesey Council report accused the Government of being ”more preoccupied with structures, lines on map and more powers” while remaining ”largely silent” on how to safeguard local accountability.

Similar proposals were suggested by then Local Government Minister, Leighton Andrews. They were abandoned two years ago but revived in March by the current secretary Aled Davies.

The Welsh Government says its considering three options for how mergers between local authorities could take place – either voluntarily, phased or via a single comprehensive merger programme.

Its Green Paper argues reorganising councils would create a ”stronger, more empowered local government.”

Llinos Medi

But Anglesey Council leader Llinos Medi said they were not convinced mergers were ”the answer to the huge financial cuts” facing the 22 authorities.

She said: ”Local Government in Wales already faces unprecedented budget cuts, but we’ve yet to hear from the Welsh Government where the money will come to pay for it. There are estimates that local government reorganisation could cost more than £200m. Surely, this money would be better spent on improving services for residents when our budgets are under such severe pressure.”

”A merged Anglesey and Gwynedd would be huge geographically and would surely impact local accountability and how services are delivered locally. Members also feel that reorganisation would blur work and hinder progress on major infrastructure projects led by the council and service transformation.”

During Thursday’s meeting, deputy leader Ieuan Williams said Mr Davies had a ”lack of respect” for the local authorities and offering no answers when he spoke recently to the WLGA in Newport after publishing the Green Paper.

On the opposition side, Anglesey Independents leader Bryan Owen called on First Minister, Carwyn Jones, to ”stick his green paper in the bin where it belongs.”

After the meeting, he added: ”Bigger does not always mean better. We’ve seen this in North Wales in terms of the health service. I believe that any merger would have a devastating effect on local accountability and services, as well as a severe economic impact on the county town of Llangefni where the main council offices are located.”

Labour Caergybi councillor Glyn Haynes abstained from the vote to reject the proposals but told the meeting he supported their concerns in principle.

The council says it will present its detailed response to Mr Davies by next Tuesday.

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Eich Gorsaf, Eich Llais / Your Station, Your Voice