I hope you all had a good Christmas and are all enjoying the start of 2014.

The year has started at a pace with the recent publication of the report by the Commission for Public Service Governance and Delivery, chaired by Sir Paul Williams.

The report is about the delivery of devolved public services in Wales. Our public services are facing increased pressure, short term factors such as austerity and the poor growth coupled with longer term demographic issues.

A growing population, our population is becoming older and the expectations of service levels are rightly growing as is overall demand for these services.

The key question is then, what form does this change take?

The commission contains many proposals but one of the stand out recommendations is to create between 10 and 12 local authorities, a reduction from the current 22. What does this mean for our own area? The report proposes the merger of Caerphilly, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent.

While we in politics live our lives by borough, ward or constituency boundary, many of you will already have strong affiliations to these places. You could well do your shopping in Cwmbran or Festival Park.

There do remain questions to be answered. Where the new authorities would be based? How would we go about merging council tax levels? How do bigger authorities maintain links to communities? These are but a few of the questions. These are not insurmountable questions but need answering all the same.

As someone who has a lifetime of local authority experience and has worked through previous reorganisations, I am determined that full consultation prior to implementation is carried out to make sure we get the right result this time, for the benefit of the constituents we serve. I will of course keep you informed through this column of any progress made.

On another note it was nice to see pupils returning to Cwmcarn School after a very tough year for staff, pupils and parents.

It is now time to look forward to a brighter future for all the pupils at Cwmcarn. This news is joined by the completion of the consultation process for the new comprehensive school at Oakdale.

The school will accommodate children from surrounding areas and will also address the issue of surplus places.

I welcome the addition of this truly 21st century school and the contribution it will make to education in Islwyn.