Wrexham Council last night rejected proposals to participate in a voluntary merger with Flintshire County Council, with Council Leader Mark Pritchard describing the suggestion as a ‘foolish leap of faith’.
In last night’s Full Council meeting Council Leader Mark Pritchard said Wrexham would not bullied into a merger with Flintshire County Council by Cardiff.
Despite a number of Flintshire councillors coming forward to say they are open to discussions with Wrexham representatives, last week Wrexham Council finally broke their silence on the Welsh Government’s proposals, saying Wrexham wants to ‘stand alone’.
The decision to stand alone was reiterated last night with concerns raised that a merger would result in the loss of local representation and would turn Wrexham into a ‘ghost town’.
Councillor Bob Dutton said: “As far as we are concerned the changes made in 1995 and 1996 were made for the best of the communities. There is no doubt in my mind it was the best solution at the time. But I think we have demonstrated that we have looked after the interests of the community to the right level. I would not wish for one, to see us amalgamated with a much larger organisation.
“Certain Flintshire members have opened discussions who have said they are open to a merger. In the circumstances i would argue strongly that Wrexham County Borough is more than capable at standing on its own. This will show we do mean businesses and we are capable of business and Wrexham is capable to look after the people of Wrexham.”
Councillor David Kelly reiterated Cllr Dutton’s concerns, adding that a merger would have an impact on Wrexham’s Community Councils.
Cllr Kelly added: “In these proposals there will be a vast reduction in the number of members representing people. It won’t just be a merger of local authorities, it’s a merger of Community Councils. A lot of the smaller ones will end up being ensued in some of the larger ones. The local democracy will be lost.
“This is a total contradiction in my mind. There is a long way to go on this, we have seen these types of papers before and I will be surprised if 18 months down the line they will be in this format. There are two significant elections before this, so watch this space.”
However there were calls from Councillor Andrew Bailey to consult with the public before any decision was made, adding that the proposed merger ‘isn’t going to go away’.
Cllr Bailey said: “Collaboration is mentioned in this report. It does mention we haven’t had time to consult the public on this and I think its imperative that we do. They might well have very different views to ours. However locally we want to look and I don’t decry that Wrexham is strong enough the political reality is this probably isn’t going to go away. we need to have assurances and we do need to keep avenues open and consult the public. I will be abstaining on the report.”
Council Leader Mark Pritchard rejected Cllr Bailey’s comments, stating that this is not the time to be abstaining from reports and that these proposals could change the face of Wrexham.
Cllr Pritchard added: “I would agree with most of the speakers here this evening, I don’t think this is the time to abstain this evening. Why would you do a voluntary merger if you don’t know what you are getting into? It’s a leap of faith and it’s a foolish leap of faith. We need to send a message to the Welsh Government that we need to stand alone.
“Why would you want to run your politics from Mold, this town will become a ghost town. It’s changing the face of Wrexham and we need you as councillors on our side, we need the Labour councillors on our side as you can make representations in Cardiff. “e are being bullied by Cardiff into this arena and I don’t want to go there.
“I think it’s wrong for Wrexham. We are here to represent our constituents. This hasn’t gone out for consultation and this has been rushed through. I can’t believe the Welsh Government has done this as it’s bordering on incompetency.
“I want members to really not sit on their hands, you’re either up for a merger or you are not. We will not be pushed in this direction, this is the most important thing which will happen to Wrexham.”
The motion was passed by a majority vote – with 36 councillors voting in favour of the report. 11 Labour councillors abstained from the vote.
Since last night’s meeting an informal consultation has been posted by Cllr Bailey on the Wrexham.com forums, asking members for their opinions on a merger with Flintshire. You can view the forum thread and take part in the debate here.