LONDON, Ont. - The provincial government announced Friday in London, it will not force municipalities to amalgamate.

Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said funding will be provided to help municipalities lower costs and improve services.

The announcement was met by applause at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario fall policy forum about the next steps in the regional government review.

The province says it will provide up to $143 million in funding that is available for all 444 municipalities across Ontario.

“And I want to be clear. I will not force amalgamations of municipalities. We will not impose cuts on municipal councils,” Clark said.

"But it’s going to (be) a bottom up approach, where municipalities will be able to work with us. They’ll be able to indicate what they would like to review. They’ll be able to do by an application based approach that defines their boundary or defines their council size.”

The province said throughout its regional government review, it heard local communities should decide what is best for them in terms of governance, decision-making and service delivery.

Ontario was reviewing 82 municipalities, a move that raised the possibility of amalgamations and came not long after the Progressive Conservative government slashed the size of Toronto's city council nearly in half.