The Leader of the Welsh Labour Party has today rubbished claims that authority mergers could create a single North Wales super council – with Wrexham Council Leader Mark Pritchard ‘delighted’ at what he calls a policy ‘u-turn’.
As readers will be aware a row broke out after Council Leader Mark Pritchard made remarks at a meeting on Wednesday evening declaring Labour AM’s had supported a single authority to run the entire of North Wales. Yesterday both MP Ian Lucas and former AM (now Welsh Labour candidate candidate) Lesley Griffiths fired off strong letters to Cllr Pritchard disputing his remarks, his reply was equally firm in reiterating his position.
Today Welsh Labour Leader Carwyn Jones also rubbished the idea Welsh Labour AM’s have previously favoured a single North Wales Authority, stating: “No Labour AM has ever made the case for one authority. If its claimed that they have, as a former lawyer I would like to see the evidence.”
Mr Jones said that a single North Wales Authority ‘has never been on the table’, describing the suggestion as ‘complete and utter nonsense to think one authority over North Wales would work, of course it wouldn’t’.
Ruling out a single authority in North Wales Mr Jones said: “What we are looking at is a model with two or three”.
Cllr Pritchard has this afternoon welcomed the ruling out of a single authority, saying: “I am absolutely delighted he has said that, it is wonderful. It is a complete u-turn.
“I would like to know what future Wrexham has in North Wales, I know he has said he is looking at two or three, we want to stay independent and we want to be in charge of Wrexham.
“I will continue to fight for Wrexham to remain as its own authority, and not to be merged with Flintshire or Denbighshire.
Mentioning Mr Jones’ comments about those, such as Cllr Pritchard, who claimed Labour AM’s did at one point favour a single authority Cllr Pritchard again stood firm on his account of a meeting between him and Labour AM’s.
The whole argument has stemmed from a discussion on the future of community councils, so we asked the Mr Jones on his thoughts on hyperlocal democracy.
Mr Jones said: “I would like to see community councils strengthened. The first thing to do to my mind is to reduce the number of County Borough Councils, we have 22 for 3 million people and it is too many.”
Referring to issues on Anglesey and elsewhere Mr Jones said there is a case to reduce the number of councils, noting ‘they would be able to plan budgets better, and would have more critical mass in terms of staff’.
He added: “Having done that the next stage is to look at town and community councils and devolve power down to them. I do not think it is possible to see every single community or town council in Wales with the exact same powers. The bigger town councils could take on more power for themselves.
“What we need to look at is how we allocate power appropriately to different sized councils. For the little ones with a few hundred people its not fair to expect them to take on the same powers as those with 15 or 16 thousand people.”
“That is where I want to go, we have a county structure, and under that we have a system of town and community councils that are more empowered than is the case at the moment.”