Wales

Conwy council gives merger with Denbighshire an 'amber light'

Merger graphic Image copyright BBC/Thinkstock
Image caption Denbighshire and Conwy merging could be part of the new local council map in Wales

Conwy council has voted to open talks with Denbighshire council over a possible voluntary merger.

Councillors at a special meeting said it was "an amber light" in the process after Denbighshire councillors made the same move last week.

Local councils across Wales are being urged to merge voluntarily from 22 to 10 or 12 rather than be forced.

Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews says voluntary mergers would give "greater certainty".

On Thursday, Wrexham council issued a statement saying it was unlikely to pursue a possible merger with Flintshire council after its deputy leader, Bernie Attridge, said last week that the authority was ready to begin talks.

Conwy council had rejected talks on a voluntary merger in January with deputy leader Ronnie Hughes claiming a previous partnership with Denbighshire over highways had been a "disaster".

'Retain savings'

The move came just days after the Williams Commission recommended the number of local authorities should be cut.

The Welsh Local Government has claimed the mergers could cost up £200m.

Mr Andrews, who rejoined the Welsh government cabinet last week, has said voluntarily merged councils could be up and running from 2018, two years earlier than the others.

Issuing a document explaining to councils how a voluntary merger would work, he said: "Authorities whose voluntary merger proposal is taken forward will be fully up and running two years in advance of others and will therefore provide certainty for the public and their staff much earlier.

"They will lead and shape their own reform and realise the opportunities for efficiencies and transformation of services more quickly."

He added: "Local authorities will retain locally any savings generated by the voluntary merger process."

The former education minister returned to the cabinet 15 months after resigning in a row over his defence of a school in his constituency which faced closure under his own policy.

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