THE leader of Newport council has suggested that the city should seek closer economic co-operation with Cardiff rather than a merger with Monmouthshire.
Bob Bright is the latest senior Gwent Labour politician to express concern over the findings of the Williams Commission, which proposed that the number of local authorities in Gwent be reduced to two. “I am asking for the situation to be looked at again,” said Cllr Bright.
He said Newport had little affinity with Monmouthshire but suggested it is a “hub for the Valleys”, while it is economically close to Cardiff.
The Argus asked him if he would prefer a merger with Cardiff. “No, but when Cardiff’s economic cup runs over I want it to run in this direction.”
He added: “I would argue for autonomy, with closer economic co-operation with Cardiff.”
Cllr Bright spoke to the Argus after his cabinet meeting earlier this week where he said he didn’t believe the Williams report was a “clear document at the moment”.
“We need to examine the Williams proposals very, very carefully,” he told cabinet members.
Under the proposals from the Williams Commission the number of councils in Wales could fall to as few as ten, with Newport and Monmouthshire merged.
A new Valleys authority for Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen and Caerphilly would also be created. All Welsh council leaders have backed calls for urgent discussions with First Minister Carwyn Jones.
The Welsh Local Government Association, led by Torfaen leader Bob Wellington and with Cllr Bright’s support, has said it will explore an alternative set of proposals.
Cllr Bright is one of the 14 members of the South East Wales city region board, which aims to boost investment across a region stretching from Cardiff to Monmouthshire.
Labour Torfaen AM Lynne Neagle and Gwent Labour MPs Chris Evans and Paul Murphy have also expressed concerns, with Ms Neagle saying spending millions on shaking up councils would be a tough sell to an elderly person having their meals on wheels cut.
Mr Murphy also warned the Welsh Government to be “very, very careful” in spending millions on council reorganisation.