Cllr Brian Silvester, Leader of Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council, describes a damning new academic report of the Local Government Review.
Last year the Government called for bids from the two tier shire
counties in England to form Unitary Councils. The Government did this
even though they knew they did not have the legal powers to do so. In
March 2007 the Department of Communities and Local Government announced
that 16 of the 25 bids would go forward for consultation. In July 2007
nine Unitary Council bids were given the go ahead, Cheshire, Cornwall,
Durham, Northumberland, Shropshire, Wiltshire, Bedford, Exeter and
Ipswich. If all these new Unitary Councils are implemented it would
result in the loss of 35 Councils and the loss of thousands of jobs and
Councillors. This proposed major local government upheaval in many
parts of the country has been festering away for over a year with
precious little recognition in the press or other media. You can’t help
feeling that if this had been happening in the shires around London the
media would have been more interested.
Local Government experts, Professors Steve Leach of De Montfort
University and Michael Chisholm, Emeritus Professor at Cambridge
University, have produced a ‘no holds barred’ indictment on the
Government’s proposals for new Unitary Councils in England. The report
was compiled at the Authors’ own volition as an unprompted independent
assessment based on their direct experience with the 2006/07 process.
Both academics have a long standing interest in structural
re-organisations of Local Government and have published widely on post
1976 re-organisation initiatives. Their latest report reflects
concerns about the way the current re-organisation initiative is being
conducted. Pulling no punches, the report is a damning indictment of
the Government, its civil servants and the Local Government proposers
of change, who have simply failed to even consider the views of
residents or the electorate, never mind failed to put those views first.
In a clinical analysis, the report finds that:
I believe that this report is a devastating destruction of the whole Local Government Review (LGR). It is clear from this report that the LGR process has been badly flawed from the word go. Any self respecting Government would read this very damning report and withdraw their plans for new Unitary Councils forthwith. It is not too late to stop this flawed review and it should be stopped in the interest of good Local Government in this country.