FIRST minister Carwyn Jones yesterday stuck by a model of two councils for Gwent as his government responded to the Williams Commission.

Earlier this year the Williams Commission on public services proposed Wales’ 21 councils should be merged into 10, 11 or 12.

Mr Jones told AMs that he believes the model of 12 councils for Wales gives a “coherent overall approach”.

In that model Newport would merge with Monmouthshire while the Valleys counties of Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Torfaen would merge to form one authority.

He told AMs: “I currently believe the first model described by the Commission, which suggests 12 local authorities, provides a coherent overall approach and strikes a balance between building organisational capacity and ensuring local democratic responsiveness.”

But he said the government will remain open to “receiving alternative proposals for mergers”.

“It is my view that the Commission made a convincing argument that the boundaries of merged local authorities should align with health board and police force boundaries in order to best support collaborative service delivery on that basis,” he said.

He said the Williams Commission had produced a “serious, authoritative and objective” piece of work which laid out the need for change and showed that staying with the status quo is not an option. “Local authority mergers will protect and improve local services. They will help improve capacity of organisations to respond to the growing challenges they face,” he said.

“There have been too many interventions in recent years, where we have had to step in and take firm action in order to safeguard public services, particularly in some smaller local authorities. This cannot continue.”

Reports have said that Welsh Labour’s national executive committee agreed to launch a three-month consultation in June on plans to reduce the number of councils to 12.

Under that model Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Powys would remain as alone authorities.