A major political shake-up is under way at Wrexham CBC as neighbouring Flintshire CC seeks to open merger talks.
Flintshire decided to explore a merger with Wrexham, under legislation due from the Welsh Government to allow voluntary mergers of councils ahead of a full reorganisation due in 2020.
This followed the report of the Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery, which was set up by the Welsh Government and said in January that Wales’s 22 councils were unsustainable and should be merged to form between 10 and 12.
But Wrexham’s leader Neil Rogers has defected from Labour while remaining in office, taking nine councillors with him into what was previously called the Democratic Independent Group, but which has now dropped the word ‘democratic’ from its title.
The separate Wrexham Independents are expected to ally with the Independent Group, and combined they would have 30 councillors to Labour’s remaining 13. There are also five Conservatives and four Liberal Democrats.
Cllr Rogers told LGC: “I resigned from Labour as did nine of my colleagues. I remain leader of the council until a meeting on 24 September when we will elect a leader and cabinet.
“All 10 of us have joined the Democratic Independent Group, which has renamed itself the Independent Group. We have had confirmation that the Wrexham Independents will work with us.
“I have left Labour for various reasons that arose over the past 12 months and that’s all I want to say about it. It is not done lightly as some of us were members for 40 years.”
Flintshire leader Aaron Shotton (Lab) told LGC: “We hope to go ahead with exploratory talks with Wrexham but we want to be sure of the financial implications.”
He said Flintshire would “have to see what progresses” with Wrexham’s internal politics.
One option floated by the commission was that both Flintshire and Wrexham should merge with Denbighshire CC.
But the latter instead wishes to merge with Conwy CBC, its western neighbour, citing cultural differences with Flintshire and Wrexham, which it described as more industrial and English-speaking. Conwy has now agreed to explore a merger with Denbighshire.
Meanwhile, Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones has brought Leighton Andrews back into his cabinet as minister for public services, charged with overseeing local government.
Mr Andrews was education minister but resigned in June 2013 when he opposed a school closure in his constituency required by the government’s policy.
Previous local government minister Lesley Griffiths has become minister for communities and tackling poverty.