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Monday, October 8, 2012

Councils scrap highways merger plans

The BBC is reporting today (Monday) that Conwy and Denbighshire councils are scrapping plans to merge highways departments to save money, claiming it would cost more to continue the project.

The report, on the North east Wales website, says:

"The local authorities already share some services, but say the measure would not benefit taxpayers.

The Welsh government has said it wants more councils working together.

Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant wants to meet council officials to see why the merger will not go ahead.

In June 2011, the Welsh government said it wanted more cross-council collaboration and staff-sharing.

Conwy and Denbighshire share a head of highways, and last year claimed they had saved £300,000 by working together on road networks.

However, they say research shows the cheapest way of merging would cost more than £750,000 over three years, with another option predicted to cost more than £1.3m.

Some also predicted the move would not improve the speed at which roads were repaired.

Mike Priestley, the politician in charge of highways in Conwy county borough, said: "Putting two services together costs money, and at this stage - bearing in mind the financial climate that we're in - it just didn't stack up.

"It was going to cost money."

He added that the councils were "not saying it's never going to happen", but "it's just not right at this time".

Conwy and Denbighshire said they wanted to look at more low-key ways of working together.

David Smith, the councillor in charge of Denbighshire's highways, said: "We haven't jumped into bed with Conwy, we're not getting married, but we're still friends and we're still talking together and we still have collaborative projects."

He added that the councils were "still looking for areas where we can work together".

When Conwy council recently decided not to share its chief executive with Denbighshire, the local government minister said he was "profoundly disappointed".

The Welsh government said redesigning services was an essential part of meeting challenges when money was tight."

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