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WELSH BILL PLEDGES HELP FOR ABOLITION VICTIMS

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A government promise of compensation for 500 Welsh employees expected to lose their jobs accompanied Wednesday's pu...
A government promise of compensation for 500 Welsh employees expected to lose their jobs accompanied Wednesday's publication of the Bill abolishing Wales' eight counties and 37 districts. The Local Government (Wales) Bill paves the way for the creation in April 1996 of 21 new unitary authorities and an interim Staff Commission.

It also lets unitary councils delegate service management to smaller area committees - championed by Welsh Secretary John Redwood. Publication of the Bill confirmed that a vigorous campaign against reorganisation mounted by the Assembly of Welsh Counties, opposition members, unions and business representatives had secured little obvious change to the government's earlier white paper proposals.

But the AWC this week pledged to continue the fight for a smaller number of larger councils as the Bill's 62 clauses and 16 schedules passed through parliament. The Welsh Office said there were some 'key changes' in the Bill which showed Mr Redwood had 'listened carefully and sympathetically to many representations'. Apart from the provision for area committees, the changes consisted of a number of small boundary and name alterations. The Bill confirmed earlier estimates that transition costs of reorganisation were expected to be between £65 million and £150m over 15 years. It also estimated the abolition of one tier would result in the loss of about 500 jobs.

Mr Redwood made a separate announcement on Wednesday which he said was intended to reassure council employees. 'The vast majority will be transferred to the new unitary authorities on their existing terms and conditions', he promised. Those not automatically transferred would have the chance to compete for jobs.

'Where they are successful, the Bill makes sure their accrued service is transferred to the new employer', he said. Mr Redwood said no decisions had been made about the detail of compensation payments for staff who lose their jobs because of reorganisation. But he promised a further announcement soon.

Geraint Price Thomas, secretary of the Council of Welsh Districts, welcomed the general thrust of the Bill, while AWC Secretary Hugh Thomas said it was 'a bitter disappointment'. The government intends the legislation to be on the statute book by the summer 1994 recess.

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