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Referendum call described as 'gimmick'

By Elgan Hearn | Mid Wales | News | Published:

The idea of holding a referendum to ask people if they want to see a return of Montgomeryshire County Council, has been branded a 'gimmick'.

The Brexit Party prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) Oliver Lewis has called for a referendum to be held on the issue of Montgomeryshire leaving Powys County Council (PCC), and re-establishing itself as a local authority

Mr Lewis, said: “Following our election, either as a majority government or in coalition, we will hold a referendum for the residents of Montgomeryshire to vote on leaving Powys.”

He added that “Powys is unfathomably big – from Welshpool to our ‘county town’ Llandrindod Wells it is a four-hour return trip and for those living north of Welshpool it’s even longer.”

“It simply cannot make sense to have issues decided by people so far away.”

Plaid Cymru (PPC) Councillor Elwyn Vaughan who is also a Powys County Councillor said: “There is a strong case to be made for the reconfiguration of Powys and changes to local government.

“Powys is large and unwieldy.

“Communities such as the Dyfi Valley have more in common with Aberystwyth and Ceredigion than other parts of Powys.

“But merely going back to Montgomeryshire without the required funding, will itself not answer the problems. We need investment – that is the priority.”

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Conservative PPC, Craig Williams, said: “There is a bigger issue on a referendum we’ve already had, that we need to debate.

“I’m born and bred in Montgomeryshire and know of the strong feelings people had, when the shires became Powys County Council. But we can’t afford this navel gazing which would also put a strain on public funds.”

Mr Williams added that local government in Wales, is a devolved issue.

Liberal Democrat PPC, Kishan Devani, said: “This is absurd, it’s a gimmick.

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“We have strong Liberal Democrat councillors at Powys County Council who are holding the Independent/Conservative administration to account.

“This is a cynical attempt to avoid discussing the harm a no deal Brexit will do to the farmers of Montgomeryshire.”

Mr Devani went on to question whether the proposal had been properly costed and thought out, as staff structures would be duplicated.

Established in 1889, Montgomeryshire County Council was abolished along with Brecknockshire and Radnorshire when Powys County Council was formed in 1974.

It remained as a district council under PCC until another reorganisation in 1996.

During the last decade the Welsh Government has suggested county councils merge to save money.

Due to resistance from the local authorities the idea has been shelved.

In all these discussions, PCC is always seen as too big to merge with others.

If successful, the new Montgomeryshire County Council, with around 70,000 residents, would have roughly the same size population as Ceredigion, or Ynys Môn County Councils.

Elgan Hearn

By Elgan Hearn
@ElganPowysLDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Powys.

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