The system and structure of local government in Wales is faced with yet another potential reorganisation only 20 years after the last major restructuring which introduced the current unitary system of 22 councils across Wales. Prior to the Local Government (Wales) Act, 1994, which created the 22 unitary councils, local government in Wales had consisted of a two-tier system of 37 district councils and eight county councils, introduced by the Local Government Act 1972. The Act had swept away the system created in 1888 of 13 administrative counties and four county boroughs as well as urban and rural district councils. What can be seen in this brief outline is a constant trend of reductions in the number of Welsh councils and a consequent increase in the geographical and population size of the new entities. Seen in this context, the current proposals to further reduce the number of Welsh councils are simply following a well trodden path of reduction in the number of councils and councillors
However, we have also seen that there is an alternative for Wales to forced mergers and the creation of supersized councils. That alternative is for the Welsh Assembly Government to create a more flexible and fluid system within which councils can construct arrangements for joint-working and co-operation which suited their specific needs. Indeed, if the Welsh Assembly Government desired it could encourage that joint-working not only through a flexible legal framework but also through financial and other policy inducements. Finally, more power could be given to elected local government over a broad spectrum of public service bodies enabling local government to structure co-operation between non-elected public services and for it to encourage those bodies to work together and with local government.