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Plans to scrap district councils slammed

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: November 01, 2012

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A PLAN to scrap district and borough councils to create a unitary authority responsible for all services in Gloucestershire have been criticised.

Michael Heseltine, former Conservative cabinet minister, presented 89 recommendations to the Government following a six-month review of economic growth.

One of the ideas put forward by Lord Heseltine included getting rid of the "baffling" two-tier system of local government currently in place in the county.

But Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council, has dismissed the proposal as a waste of time and money.

"I'm not going to waste taxpayers' time and money moving the deckchairs between councils in Gloucestershire," he said.

"We need councils to work together now to save money – not argue amongst themselves.

"The Secretary of State for Local Government has made it very clear, on a number of occasions, that he will not be permitting any local government reorganisations at present."

Lynden Stowe, leader of Cotswold District Council, believes a unitary authority would not be suitable.

He said: "I think unitary authorities are more suited to urban areas with large populations. For instance, I don't believe it would benefit the people of the Cotswolds to have planning issues dealt with under a Gloucestershire-wide planning authority."

Not everyone, however, is against the idea.

Andrew North, chief executive of Cheltenham Borough Council, has gone on record in the past as saying that he is broadly supportive of unitary status for the county.

And Steve Jordan, leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, has echoed a similar sentiment.

He said: "In principle it makes sense, however it would be expensive to achieve and is not a high priority on the national agenda so we could spend a lot of unnecessary time talking about it locally.

"In the meantime we are getting on with making the current structure more efficient and are sharing many services."

Lord Heseltine believes the creation of more unitary authorities would reduce "duplication" of services and "inefficiencies".

OPINION, P8

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  • dontyaknow  |  November 01 2012, 7:05PM

    Agree aroakley, that they have worked well in other places, but Gloucestershire has a much higher population (600,000 excluding Suth glos) than Herefordshire (180,000) or Shropshire (300,000 excluding Telford), so I don't think it would work to make ths whole county Unitary. I also don't think Cheltenham is big enough to warrant Unitary status. However, I do agree with 2 Unitary Authorities, split East / West. The west would comprise of the areas that currently make up the Forest of Dean District, Gloucester and The Stroud District. The East would consist of the Tewkesbury Borough, Cheltenham Borough and Cotswold District. I think this would make a lot of sense.

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  • aroakley  |  November 01 2012, 10:26AM

    Unitary authorities have worked very well in Herefordshire and Shropshire, both rural counties very similar to Gloucestershire. In Shropshire, they split into two council areas; the suburban Telford, and then the rest of the county. I think Gloucestershire should follow a similar model, with a unitary authority for Cheltenham, and then a "rest of Gloucestershire" unitary authority controlled from Gloucester. Alternatively, a "West Gloucestershire" consisting of Gloucester, Stroud, Berkeley and the Forest, and an "East Gloucestershire" consisting of Cheltenham, Tewkesbury, Cirencester and Stow.

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  • GlosYap2  |  November 01 2012, 9:56AM

    Bump

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  • Lecorche  |  November 01 2012, 9:54AM

    Why not ask us,the taxpayers,what we'd like?

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  • Councilwonk  |  November 01 2012, 9:34AM

    District councils spend, combined, less than 25% of the County Council's spending. Any solution which splits the County Council will end up costing taxpayers more, not less. GlosYap - that also means that people in the Cotswolds already significantly subsidise other areas - the vast majority of council tax is county-wide already.

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  • GlosYap2  |  November 01 2012, 9:04AM

    It would be useful to get some more of the precept from rich council tax payers in wealthier districts (Cotswolds) better spread across the county to the poorer parts. Having a Unitary authority might help achieve this. My view would be that it would be unlikely to result in a single unified authority though, more likely two! Savings and efficiencies do not always go hand in hand and far more important than saving money or making running more efficient anyway would be to ensure that the people of Gloucestershire would be better (or no less well) politically represented than now, services retain (or even improve) their localised focus and the county would not recieve less funding from Central government as a result. I am a little sick of those who push for "saving money", above representation, as the be and end all role of government these days. Smacks of facism.

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  • TIMONLINE2010  |  November 01 2012, 9:03AM

    Depends how they ended up being split up - could mean less representatation.

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  • capital1978  |  November 01 2012, 8:22AM

    Sooner the better. Fewer politicians and millions of pounds saved. It really is a "no brainer".

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  • Bonkim2003  |  November 01 2012, 7:58AM

    will reduce staff, rationalise/join up service contracts which would save money.

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