The reorganisation of the Welsh Government funded Welsh public sector – Part 2

Mike Hedges continues his consideration of how the scale of delivery impacts local authority’s delivery of services.

This article continues my consideration of the reorganisation of the Welsh Government funded Welsh public sector

Local Government mergers are again being considered and there is a political consensus that we need larger local authorities, although calling a reconstituted Dyfed a local Council does seem, to me at least, a little strange.

The current size of local authorities in Wales are shown below.


District Population
1 Cardiff 361,500
2 Swansea 244,500
3 Rhondda Cynon Taf 238,300
4 Carmarthenshire 185,600
5 Caerphilly 180,500
6 Flintshire 154,400
7 Newport 149,100
8 Bridgend 143,200
9 Neath Port Talbot 141,600
10 Wrexham 136,700
11 Powys 132,200
12 Vale of Glamorgan 128,500
13 Pembrokeshire 124,000
14 Gwynedd 123,600
15 Conwy 116,500
16 Denbighshire 94,800
17 Monmouthshire 92,800
18 Torfaen 92,100
19 Ceredigion 74,100
20 Isle of Anglesey 69,700
21 Blaenau Gwent 69,600
22 Merthyr Tydfil 59,800


England and Scotland have several unitary authorities larger than Cardiff but Scotland has 5 smaller than Merthyr (Inverclyde, Clackmanshire, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland) and England one (Rutland).

If larger authorities were more efficient and effective then two things would happen: council tax would be lower and performance would be better. The council tax should show that the larger authorities, and Powys which has been deemed not to need to be merged, charging the lowest amount. Using Welsh Government data on 2018/19 County and County Borough Council tax rates.


District Band D Council Tax Relative size
Pembrokeshire 994 13
Newport 1,057 7
Caerphilly 1,058 5
Wrexham 1093 10
Isle of Anglesey 1140 20
Cardiff 1155 1
Conwy 1168 15
Flintshire 1178 6
Vale of Glamorgan 1,187 12
Powys 1189 11
Carmarthenshire 1,197 4
Ceredigion 1226 19
Torfaen 1,242 18
Monmouthshire 1,242 17
Denbighshire 1248 16
Swansea 1269 2
Gwynedd 1301 14
Bridgend 1396 8
Rhondda Cynon 1,406 3
Neath Port Talbot 1,497 9
Merthyr Tydfil 1500 21
Blaenau Gwent 1571 22


Whilst the two smallest authorities are in the bottom two places regarding council tax, medium sized authorities appear to perform better than either large or small authorities when it comes to the cost of council tax to the resident.

Does council performance show that the larger authorities by population perform best? According to the Western Mail “ the quality of services delivered by local authorities in Wales is not determined by the size of the council.”

The Western Mail figures are based on 28 indicators across the range of local government, including education, social care, housing, environment and transport, planning and regulatory services, leisure and culture and corporate health.

With four points on offer for councils that performed in the top quartile of each indicator, a maximum score of 112 was possible. Depending on their performance, councils scored between one and four points in each indicator.

This uses figures published in 2015/16 and I will update these figures when I can access the 2016/17 figures.

Council Score Relative size
Vale of Glamorgan 86 12
Denbighshire 85 16
Carmarthenshire 79 4
Pembrokeshire 77 13
Rhondda Cynon Taf 77 3
Merthyr Tydfil 76 22
Wrexham 76 10
Neath Port Talbot 73 9
Gwynedd 72 14
Flintshire 71 6
Caerphilly 70 5
Conwy 68 15
Isle of Anglesey 68 29
Blaenau Gwent 67 21
Bridgend 67 8
Monmouthshire 66 17
Newport 66 7
Torfaen 66 18
Cardiff 64 1
Ceredigion 61 19
Powys 61 11
Swansea 59 2


From this it is not possible to conclude that larger councils and Powys perform better with medium sized authorities taking three of the top four places.

In Scotland the variation in council tax is much less than Wales but the lowest council tax is the Western Islands and Shetland and the largest Council, Glasgow, has the largest band D council tax.

I didn’t find  it possible to get the same data for Scotland as is available for Wales on relative performance.

I look forward to reading an explanation on how larger councils perform better and an explanation of the advantages of larger councils.


All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.


Mike Hedges in Assembly Member for Swansea East.

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