Torfaen MP Paul Murphy tells Welsh Government to be careful over council shakeup

A SENIOR Labour MP from Gwent has warned the Welsh Government to be “very very careful” over shaking up councils when the UK Government is making cuts.

Former Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy’s intervention comes as figures show people Newport and Caerphilly could face hefty council tax increases as a result of council mergers.

On Monday the Welsh Government-backed Williams commission proposed two councils for Gwent – one for Newport and Monmouthshire and another for Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen.

Mr Murphy, who represents the latter area, yesterday said the Welsh Government “have to be very very careful in spending between a quarter and a half billion pounds on reorganising local government” when Wales is facing cuts.

“The Williams Commission says it won’t cost anything. That is complete nonsense,” he said, saying he had lived through two council reorganisations that cost money.

Citing figures that 15,000 jobs could be lost, Mr Murphy said he wouldn't want to see "any more people put out of work" unless there are jobs to go to.

Meanwhile estimates from the Williams commission show that bringing council tax rates in line in Newport and Caerphilly two areas could mean rises of between six and ten per cent.

The estimated change is based on what would happen if council tax was set at an average of the old council areas.

According to the commission Caerphilly residents pay £1,127.86 for a band D property with the police precept, while people in Blaenau Gwent pay £1,525.90 and people in Torfaen pay £1,246.41.

To get Caerphilly residents to an average rate across the three authorities of £1,241.46, rates would have to rise by 10.1 per cent.

In Blaenau Gwent residents would see their rates fall by 18.6 per cent.

Meanwhile Newport people currently pay £1,057.24, while Monmouthshire people pay £1,236.47.

But if new rates were set at the average of the two authorities, at £1,126.36, Newport residents could face paying 6.5 per cent more on their council tax bills.

In contrast people in Monmouthshire could see rates fall by 8.9 per cent.

Raising concerns, Plaid South Wales East AM Jocelyn Davies said: “Residents in Islwyn will remember the whopping council tax increase that happened when the merger with the Rhymney Valley took place."

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