Wales politics

Minister doubts councils' plan for 'combined authority'

Plans for a "combined authority" linking 10 south Wales councils have been questioned by Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews.

He asked if leaders of all 10 councils were committed to the idea of joining forces on transport, planning and other major issues.

The proposal was announced by the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) on Tuesday.

It said it had ordered a more detailed report to be considered in February.

Funding hopes

The councils which already meet as the South East Wales Regional Partnership Board and which have agreed to consider more formal ties are:

  • Blaenau Gwent
  • Bridgend
  • Caerphilly
  • Cardiff
  • Merthyr Tydfil
  • Monmouthshire
  • Newport
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf
  • Torfaen
  • Vale of Glamorgan

It is understood the body would deal with transport, planning and major economic issues, and could help win funding for proposals such as a metro-style transport system.

The new body is not intended to affect plans to merge Welsh councils.

Mr Andrews told AMs on Wednesday that he "would like to see some evidence that the political leadership... has been fully involved in [those] decisions."

"First of all, there will not be 10 local authorities in south east Wales in the near future," he added, referring to the ongoing merger discussions.

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Media captionThe combined authority must work alongside merger plans, the WLGA leader Bob Wellington says

"Secondly, I'm not clear that the political leaders of those councils have given a commitment to shape that 'combined authority'. I think there is some doubt about the WLGA's position."

Responding for the WLGA, Vale of Glamorgan council leader Neil Moore said the 10 councils were seeking to link closely with the Welsh government's city region programme.

He said they considered a report on December 4 and had asked for another report to look at the idea in more detail to be discussed in February.

Earlier, Torfaen council leader Bob Wellington - who also leads the WLGA - said the councils' move would not create a "new or extra organisation" and would not affect the merger process.

"If [the proposal] complements what we want to do by merging, that's fine," he told BBC Radio Wales.

"If it threatens what we want to do then my authority, and I'm sure some of the other authorities, will reject it."

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