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WELSH UNITARY ELECTIONS DELAYED BY A YEAR

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The creation of 21 new unitary authorities in Wales will be delayed one year. The government's surprise announcemen...
The creation of 21 new unitary authorities in Wales will be delayed one year. The government's surprise announcement to parliament this week means elections to shadow authorities, planned for June next year, are now expected in April or May 1995.

The new authorities themselves should be up and running on 1 April 1996, coinciding with the launch of the new Scottish and most of the English unitary councils. The Assembly of Welsh Counties has consistently argued that the accelerated timetable for reform in the principality was unrealistic. Russell Goodway, head of the AWC's reorganisation committee, said this week the government's belated recognition of this fact was 'one more pointer that the whole exercise is a shambles'.

'What we want the secretary of state to do now is to look at all the other areas which we have highlighted as a shambles, in particular the costs of reform', Mr Goodway said. But the Council of Welsh Districts stressed the change in momentum would not affect the detail of reorganisation.

'Obviously we are disappointed and we wanted Wales to be the first in the frame', said Geraint Price Thomas, undersecretary of the CWD. The ability of councils to plan for the future and develop their services would be inhibited by the delay and the continued uncertainty would damage staff morale, he said.

'But we mustn't lose sight of the fact that we have a Bill coming on stream and there is no doubt about the government's committment to the reform of local government'. The CWD also welcomed an announcement by Scottish Secretary Ian Lang that the government had accepted its proposals to have 1,250 rather than 1,100 members elected to unitary authorities on district ward boundaries. Mr Lang also announced changes to the white paper boundary proposals which included making Ystradgynlais and Llanelly Hill part of the new mid Wales or Powys authority. The proposed Glamorgan valleys authority would be renamed Rhondda-Cynon-Taff. Ron Davies, Labour's Welsh spokesman, said none of the changes would address the real grievance felt throughout Wales. The government's proposals did not meet its objectives in reorganising local government, he said.
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