A unitary authority created in 1996 covering three valleys: Rhymney, Sirhowy and Ebbw. It includes remote upland communities and urban centres such as Risca and Ystrad Mynach. Political make-up: Lab 39, Plaid Cymru 26, Ind 8.
Population 169,500. Migration from valleys countered by growth in Caerphilly and Blackwood. Predominantly white. Approximately 11% can speak Welsh.
The biggest employer is the council. The next largest sector is manufacturing, accounting for a quarter of the workforce. General Dynamics, Peters Food Services and British Airways are big employers. Less than 1% now work in mining and quarrying. Unemployment is 2.8% (Welsh average 2.3%). A more telling figure is that for economic inactivity: 29.2% (25.8%). However, Caerphilly has the fourth highest percentage, 15.68 %, of people receiving incapacity benefit and severe disablement allowances, just below the other Welsh valley authorities.
30,730 pupils in 79 primary schools, 16 secondaries, one pupil-referral unit and one special school. Since 1996, it has shed 1,294 surplus primary places to become the second lowest in Wales, but inspectors say there are still 7.9% too many. Secondaries, 14.8% in surplus, are the fourth highest.
Primary 92.5% (second lowest in Wales, average 93.2%). Secondaries, at 89.4%, are fourth lowest (90.6%). Has one of the highest rates for permanent exclusions.
39.8% of the working population have no qualifications (Wales average 33%).
Only 45% of 16-year-olds achieve five high-grade GCSEs (51%).
Spending last year was pound;127m, the fourth highest proportion of budget in Wales. It retains a high proportion centrally, delegating 85.3% to schools (88.5 %).
Estyn commented in February: "Senior managers and officers are committed to delivering improvements." It praised primary reorganisation, action on school improvement, libraries and inclusion, and the breadth of provision and inclusive approach of its music services.