COUNCIL leaders from Gwent are to form part of a group developing new plans to reform local government in Wales.

Newport and Monmouthshire council leaders Cllrs Debbie Wilcox and Peter Fox are among local government heads from across Wales who will sit on a new working group aimed and developing new plans - with fresh recommendations to be set out next summer.

This comes after contentious reform proposals announced by local government and public services secretary Alun Davies earlier this year, which would have seen Newport and Caerphilly councils merged into a single authority, and Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen and Monmouthshire into another, were ditched after being met with widespread opposition.

And now the remit of a working group, which will be led by Wales MEP Derek Vaughan and also include Mr Davies himself, as well as delegates representing the trade union, business and the voluntary sectors, has been announced.

In a statement Blaenau Gwent AM Mr Davies said the group would look at opportunities for councils to work more closely together on some issues, whether handing over new powers would enhance the work of local government and how communities can be given a stronger role in decision-making, with work to conclude next summer.

“The working group will be able to draw on the considerable evidence which has been developed over the last few years on reform and on effective delivery,” he said.

“The working group’s focus, therefore, will be on determining what should be done in response to that evidence and not generating significant additional evidence themselves.

“The output will be a pragmatic plan for change, co-produced between the Welsh Government and local government and to be implemented together.”

Mr Davies announced he had binned the contentious merger proposals in June, saying any mergers would only go ahead voluntarily.

Plans which would have seen all five Gwent authorities merged into a single council were ditched after the 2016 Assembly Election.

There are currently 22 councils in Wales.