Tuesday, 08 July 2008 01:42

Radical reform for local government

Written by  Ruralcity Media
LOCAL government is to be reformed in three of England's most rural counties.

THE Boundary Committee has unveiled plans to reform local government in three of England's most rural counties.

Draft proposals would see a single unitary local authority replace district and county councils in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk.

The Boundary Committee for England said it believed people in Devon would be best served by a unitary authority covering the whole of the county.

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The report favours one council for Devon
In Norfolk, the committee has also proposed a single unitary authority, covering the whole county and including Lowestoft.

The proposal for Suffolk is for two unitary authorities – one covering Ipswich and Felixstowe and one covering the rest of the county without Lowestoft.

All three counties currently operate a two-tier county and district structure.

The proposals have largely been welcomed by county councils but condemned by smaller district councils.

The Devon unitary authority would have a population of more than 700,000 over 2,500 square miles - making it by far the largest rural unitary authority in England and second in population only to Birmingham.

A Boundary Committee report for Devon said a single unitary council would be able to bring together rural and urban communities, building a cohesive response to the challenges facing the county as a whole.

The move was welcomed by Devon County Council, which said a single unitary council for Devon would be best placed to cut costs, deliver value for money and reduce the burden of Council Tax.

But West Devon Borough Council warned that a such a geographically large and sparsely populated unitary authority would be too distant and remote from the electorate.

The Boundary Committee said there was also merit in a proposal for a Suffolk unitary authority covering the whole county except for Lowestoft.

According to Suffolk County Council, a single unitary authority would save it £100 a year for every household in the county.

But Suffolk Coastal District Council reacted angrily, describing the proposals as hare-brained and farcical.

Norfolk County Council said a single new local council for the whole of Norfolk would be the simplest, clearest and most cost efficient solution.

But the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk said it was "totally disappointed" by the idea.

By focusing on larger settlements in the east of the county - such as Norwich and Great Yarmouth - the needs of people in west Norfolk would be ignored.

             See also:
                 • Local councillors out of touch - study (31 January 2008)

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