Wales

Referendum call to bring back Montgomeryshire council

Map of the old county of Montgomeryshire
Image caption Montgomeryshire is one of the 13 historic counties of Wales and dates back to the 16th Century

A pledge to call a referendum on bringing back Montgomeryshire County Council by a parliamentary candidate has been branded a gimmick by rivals.

Abolished in 1974, a district council which replaced it was wound up in 1996.

Oliver Lewis has promised a vote if the Brexit Party is in government after the next general election, saying Powys County Council was "unfathomably big".

Tory rival Craig Williams derided the idea as "navel gazing" which would "put a strain on public funds".

Mr Lewis, who is standing in Montgomeryshire, claimed a return trip from its former county town of Welshpool to Powys County Hall in Llandrindod Wells can take up to four hours.

"It simply cannot make sense to have issues decided by people so far away," he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Image copyright Powys County Council
Image caption Powys inherited the former Montgomeryshire HQ in Welshpool which it now wants to sell

Plaid Cymru candidate and county councillor Elwyn Vaughan agreed Powys was "large and unwieldy" but added: "Merely going back to Montgomeryshire without the required funding will itself not answer the problems.

"We need investment - that is the priority."

Craig Williams, the Conservative candidate, said there was a "bigger issue" at stake, referring to the deadlock over Brexit.

"I'm born and bred in Montgomeryshire and know of the strong feelings people had when the shires [of Montgomery, Brecknock and Radnor] became Powys County Council.

"But we can't afford this navel gazing which would also put a strain on public funds."

Liberal Democrat candidate Kishan Devani said the idea was "absurd" and questioned the wisdom of duplicating staff structures.

He claimed it was "a cynical attempt to avoid discussing the harm a no-deal Brexit will do to the farmers of Montgomeryshire".

While the Welsh Government has considered local government reform in recent years, Powys County Council has been regarded as covering too large an area to merge with any neighbours.

However, with around 70,000 residents, a council for Montgomeryshire would serve a population comparable to those in Ceredigion or Ynys Mon.

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