MONMOUTHSHIRE and other historic areas of Wales would “lose their identity” if plans to merge council across the country go ahead, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies has claimed.

The Local Government (Wales) Bill could see the number of local authorities in the country slashed from 22 to just eight or nine, including merging Newport with Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen and Caerphilly.

Last month the Welsh Conservatives said they would hold a referendum on the plans if they win a majority in May’s Assembly election and now Mr Davies said the party would “stand up for our proud communities the length and breadth of Wales”.

“Welsh Conservatives are the only party committed to giving residents the final say on council reorganisation via a local referendum,” he said.

“The people of Monmouthshire, Pembrokeshire and the Vale of Glamorgan should have the final say over their future. Labour’s plans deny them that right.”

Meanwhile a report by the Assembly’s Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee has said the Welsh Government must hold “open and constructive” discussions with councils over the plans.

The committee also said the potential of offering loans to councils to help them meet the costs of mergers should be investigated.

No decision will be made on the plans until after May’s election.