Changes on the horizon?

So the recommended number for councils in Wales, according to the Williams Commission, is between 10 and 12.

The key decisions that need to be made before a single figure is arrived at is what to do with Carmarthenshire and Swansea.

If there's a 12 then here's the split:

Wrexham and Flintshire

Gwynedd and Anglesey

Conwy and Denbighshire

Powys

Newport and Monmouthshire

Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan

Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen and Caerphilly

RCT and Merthyr

Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot

Swansea

Carmarthenshire

Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire

To move to 10 would require Carmarthenshire joining Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion and then Swansea joining Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot.

In a news conference with members of the Williams Commission at the Welsh government's offices this morning, one of the striking comments surrounded the time-scale.

Paul Williams, the former chief executive of the NHS in Wales, spoke repeatedly about need for pace of change. His timescale was within three to five years.

He also estimated it would cost around £100m to implement which is well below the estimates from the Welsh Local Government Association. The WLGA says the costs of any reorganisations are routinely under-estimated and I'd expect this to form a big part of the debate that will now get under way.

The savings were put at between £60m and £80m a year after the changes have been brought in.

With regard the current structure of 22, Paul Williams said there was a real danger of the smaller authorities not being able to cope.

The commission members were fairly diplomatic throughout. The closest they came to criticism of the system was with regard to attempts to share services among the 22.

They said they couldn't find an answer as to how many partnerships were in place and even quoted council chief executives who told them they were spending around half of their time on collaboration projects. So the message was too much confusion.

Another message was that if there are councils in Wales willing to merge then they should begin the process now rather than wait for legislation to be introduced at the assembly.

The commission gave no definitive details on how many staff it expected to be made redundant or how many councillors we can expect to see cut, other than that Wales was over-represented currently. It pointed to Edinburgh which is twice the size of Swansea and yet has 14 fewer councillors.