Wales politics

Welsh councils urged to display 'grown-up politics'

An image from the 3D animation of the South Wales Metro Image copyright Welsh government
Image caption Major projects such as a south Wales Metro transport system cut across council boundaries

Welsh local authorities should overcome party rivalries following the elections and work together in the face of tight finances, a council leader has said.

Debbie Wilcox, Newport's Labour leader, said voters deserved "grown-up politics" to ensure services survived.

And David Walker, Tory opposition leader in Cardiff, said council mergers could lead to savings.

But Plaid's retiring Gwynedd leader, Dyfed Edwards, warned collaboration may lead to "fragile" accountability.

Labour lost control of three councils in Thursday's local elections, but held on to majorities in seven, including the cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport.

The Tories took full control of Monmouthshire while Plaid Cymru kept its majority in Gwynedd.

But despite winning seats mainly at Labour's expense, the two parties fell short of capturing other key targets such as the Vale of Glamorgan and Carmarthenshire respectively.

'Great financial pressures'

Mr Edwards told Sunday Supplement on BBC Radio Wales it was "absolutely remarkable" that voters in many areas kept their trust in the existing ruling parties, recognising they had kept services going in the face of "great financial pressures".

With council mergers now off the table, he said closer collaboration could work depending on the relationship with other set-ups such as the city regions and England's Northern Powerhouse.

"That has potential although the big question mark is accountability," he said.

"At a time when local government does have that connection with the local community, that's the one thing that could be fragile and needs to be looked at carefully."

Ms Wilcox said that since becoming a council leader she had been "very impressed" by the way authorities led by different parties had worked together, such as on the Cardiff city region deal.

"As long as you get the basics right, the governance right, the direction of travel, people are not particularly interested in how it's achieved - what they want it to be is achieved," she said.

"They want those good services, good education, economic delivery, jobs and the mechanics need to be about grown-up politics.

"The electorate deserve us to work collaboratively and work well together, but also to have that local delivery of services."

David Walker, a Conservative whose group is now the official opposition to Labour on Cardiff council, said there was still scope for savings from re-organisation.

"Wales needs fewer councils and that would lead to economies of scale," he said.

However, he added that Monmouthshire's Tory council leader Peter Fox had worked effectively with nine Labour counterparts on the Cardiff city region deal.

"Peter talks about positive relationships with the other council leaders and working together for a common goal," Mr Walker said.

"So I think there is evidence that it can happen in that situation at a strategic level certainly."

Listen to Sunday Supplement on BBC Radio Wales via the iPlayer Radio.

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