THE WILLIAMS report sets out a potential framework for the future of local government in Wales.

But it probably raises more questions than it answers.

We don’t think anybody would argue that the current 22 local authorities set up is sustainable. But there are simple questions, such as in the various mergers being suggested, which authority would take the lead role?

For example, in any merger between Newport and Monmouthshire, would the civic headquarters of the new authority be in the city’s civic centre or at the shiny new Monmouthshire building at Usk? Also the resulting councils would in some instances contain towns with little in common with each other.

Report author Paul Williams suggests the re-organisation would cost in the region of £100m, which some would argue is optimistic, but would lead to savings of between £60 and £80m a year thereby recouping the costs fairly quickly. But our concern is that there is a real danger council officers up and down the country who are steering their councils through huge spending cuts will now have their eyes taken off the ball because of the uncertainty surrounding the future.

We also do not share Mr Williams’ confidence in the timescales he is suggesting.

For him to expect the Welsh government, local authorities and key stakeholders to agree programme arrangements for merger by Easter seem fanciful to us.