PLANS to force a merger between Wrexham and Flintshire councils have been branded "a waste of time" after being scrapped for a second time.

Proposals to reduce the number of county councils in Wales from 22 to just 10 were tabled by the Welsh Government in March, just two years after they were originally ditched.

However, despite warning local authority leaders: “Change or we will change you”, Local Government Secretary Alun Davies has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor Mark Drakeford by announcing they will be withdrawn.

Speaking at the Welsh Local Government Association’s annual conference in Llandudno, Mr Davies said any mergers would now be voluntary.

The news has been welcomed on both sides of the county border, however the leader of Wrexham Council’s Plaid Cymru group said Mr Davies should feel "ashamed" about wasting resources.

Cllr Marc Jones said: “Local councils have been left in limbo for years now due to the antics of various Labour ministers.

“The pattern keeps repeating itself with ministers threatening to force mergers, ignoring offers to voluntarily merge and then backing down.

“That cycle has now repeated itself again and is taking up officers’ time when they should be focussed on delivering the best possible services.

“Alun Davies should be ashamed of his bluster and threats, for wasting council resources and then suddenly abandoning his plans to redraw lines on maps without improving services.”

In its official response to the consultation, Wrexham Council voiced strong opposition to being amalgamated with its neighbour, putting forward an alternative option for it to take in parts of Powys and Denbighshire.

Meanwhile, councillors in Flintshire said there would need to be a ‘compelling case for change’ and asked for greater powers.

Cllr Christine Jones (Lab), Flintshire Council’s cabinet member for social services, questioned where the funding for rebranding authorities would have come from and said it could be better spent on investment in public services.

Cllr Jones said: “What I’m glad about is that they haven’t got to make us waste all that money now.

“When we went to Flintshire we had to have new names, new logos, new vehicles, new everything and it would have been an utter waste of money.

“If it was already going to be available for that then why can’t we have it now as authorities all over Wales because we’re all desperately in need, especially social care which I have a vested interest in.

“We’re already doing a lot of things regionally and collaboratively with other authorities like Denbighshire and Wrexham. In the future we’ll probably have to do more, but it doesn’t mean we have to lose our own identity to do it.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The Cabinet Secretary has always said that we will work to agree and not impose a solution.

“He has made an open offer to invite local government to agree a shared vision for the future, and we are keen to take this process forward together in partnership.

“We are grateful to local government for accepting this offer."