A COUNCILLOR has said that he thinks Merthyr Tydfil is too small and thinks they should merge with a bigger authority.
Councillor Tony Rogers made the comment at a full council meeting on Wednesday, July 14 which heard an update on the work of the improvement and assurance board.
Welsh Government set it up in 2019 to help Merthyr Tydfil Council deal with several challenges it faces.
It came after a Wales Audit Office letter raised significant issues around finance, leadership, and governance at the council which prompted the authority to ask for support from the Welsh Government
The Welsh Government minister appointed an improvement and assurance board in 2019 made up of independent external members including former Mr Thomas a former Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) chair, Christine Salter the former corporate director of resources, Section 151 and returning officer at Cardiff Council, Chris Burns the former interim chief executive at Caerphilly Council and former assistant chief executive at Carmarthenshire Council and Tony Garthwaite the former director of social services at Bridgend Council.
External advisers were also appointed in areas such as education, social services, corporate governance and leader, cabinet and member development.
But Cllr Rogers said he thinks that the council is too small and has far too many councillors.
He disagreed with the improvement board’s findings when they first arrived at the council that it was “fractious.”
He said: “It isn’t a fractious council. It is the quietest council I have ever known. It is more quiet than a convent. It is not that fractious.”
He said he has been a councillor for 45 years on and off and that the problem they have got is that they are too small.
He said that he had raised a motion a few years ago supporting a merger with RCT.
Cllr Rogers said: “You’re always going to be at the bottom because you haven’t got the scope or capacity. That is the problem with this authority.”
He said they’re not going to get enough money or capacity and they “will always struggle as a local authority.”
Mr Thomas said that the divisiveness was more of an issue on social media than within the council.
He said there may well be a point in the future when services need to merge for larger scales but he said that coming out of the pandemic if people think local government organisation is the answer they are “asking for problems.”
“The key thing for the next few years at least is service continuity. I don’t think Welsh Government have intentions at the current time to do any form of local government reorganisation.”
But he said they should look at all service options for the future and if delivering services in neighbouring authorities is the best way forward then do that.
Councillor Chris Davies thanked the board particularly Mr Garthwaite for their help in social services.
On the idea of local government reorganisation he said: “I absolutely don’t believe that is the way to go.”
He said the aim is to drive innovation, collaboration and partnership.
“For me it is not about takeovers from any bigger authorities. That isn’t the answer.”
Councillor Clive Jones pointed out that Cllr Rogers motion for a merger with RCT several years ago had been defeated by 31 votes to two.
He said: “We need another local government reorganisation like a hole in the head.
“I don’t believe that to have an authority of between 300,000 and 400,000 population is the answer.
“I think we have done very well on the whole over the years, run an authority with a population of 60,000 and it has proven that we can do it.
“And I honestly believe that’s the way forward for Merthyr Tydfil. Being big, massive is not the answer always.”
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