Plans to forcibly reorganise and reduce the number of councils in Wales have been abandoned by the Welsh government.
While there will be no changes to the existing number of local authorities, the Welsh Government will “support” voluntary mergers, cabinet secretary for finance and local government Mark Drakeford said.
Councils will, however, be given a “mandatory” requirement to work together on a regional basis, he added.
Proposals were made by the Labour administration in 2014 to cut the current 22 councils down to between 10 and 12. A revised plan for only eight or nine was subsequently published before the policy was put on hold.
LGC reported in April how the new secretary of state for Wales Alun Cairns (Con) had voiced “grave reservations” about the Welsh Government’s plans to forcibly merge councils.
In a statement Mr Drakeford said he would “retain existing local authorities” as the “front door through which people access services but with key services being delivered regionally.”
He said: “Behind this front door, we would have an enhanced level of mandatory and systematic regional working. This will give local authorities more resilience in terms of staffing and finance and also ensure that services are planned and delivered on the right scale.”
Mr Drakeford mooted city regions “covering strategic transport, land-use planning and economic development” as one model, while another would be “aligned to health boards for services such as education improvement, social services and public protection”.
The Welsh Local Government Association welcomed the abandonment of forced council mergers but added it would be seeking clarification on how mandatory regional working would work in practice.