COUNCILS in Gwent could be forced to merge under new plans unveiled by the Welsh Government.

The proposal could see Newport and Caerphilly councils merged into a single authority, and Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen and Monmouthshire into another.

Announcing the proposals, local government secretary Alun Davies said: "We need councils whose membership is fully representative of the local community and which are relevant to everyone.

"Councils where elected members are recognised and rewarded for their commitment and for the crucial role they play in our democracy.

"I simply do not believe that this vision of powerful, robust and energised local government can be built without a serious debate about local government structures.

"Wales needs strong, effective, empowered local authorities which can weather continued austerity and build local democratic structures fit for future generations.

"Our local authorities need to be large enough to have the capacity and capability to develop and implement the bold new solutions demanded by the increasing challenges they face.

"Continuing as we are will simply see more missed opportunities to modernise, integrate and transform the way things are done.

"And this will be a tragedy for all of us who not only depend on our local services but who want to see stronger local government in the future."

Previous plans which would have seen all five councils merged were scrapped following the 2016 Assembly Election.

A consultation has been launched on the proposal today.

More follows.