Wales politics

Leighton Andrews says new Welsh cabinet role is a major task

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Media captionMr Andrews steps into the new role of minister for public service

After more than a year's absence, Leighton Andrews has returned to the Welsh government's cabinet and admits there is a "big job" to do.

The former education minister quit the role 15 months ago in a row over his defence of a school in his area which faced closure under his own policy.

But on Thursday he was appointed to the new post of minister for public services.

The cabinet reshuffle saw two departures and one post removed.

In his new job, Mr Andrews will be responsible for delivering local government changes, including looking at the Williams Commission recommendation to reduce the number of councils from 22 to 10 or 12.

Following his appointment, the Rhondda AM told the BBC, Wales needed a strong local government to deliver important services.

"There are lots of key questions and reading for me to do," he said.

"I think there's general acceptance in Wales that things have to change. This is a very difficult time for anyone to be in local government, I think we all understand the pressures councillors are under as a result of the cuts forced on the Welsh budget by the Conservative-led coalition at Westminster."

Mr Andrews said local councils knew the cuts were coming and the decision to have fewer councillors had already been reached.

"I think people have accepted there has to be reform, there has to be reorganisation," he said.

"Some councils are talking very actively already about merger."

Mr Andrews also waded into the Scottish referendum debate.

"I think what's been evident over the last few days is the sight of the Westminster political parties trying to come together to ensure that we see the continuation of the United Kingdom and I want to see the continuation of the United Kingdom - I don't believe the people of Wales want independence, the polls tell us that," he said.

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