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The Case for Unitary Authorities in Lincolnshire

February 28, 2013 12:33 PM
By Cllr John Bishop
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

john bishopExecutive Summary (Full document in PDF at http://johnbishop.mycouncillor.org.uk )

Introduction

The idea of a unitary authority, which undertakes the roles of County and District Councils first emerged following the Report into Local Government by a committee led by Lord Redcliffe Maude in 1969. The report, which had originally been commissioned by the Labour Government, was left to the Conservative Government which came to power in 1970 to implement. Whilst establishing the blueprint for local government which largely exists to this day, the basic recommendations of Redcliffe Maude were ignored and the Metropolitan Counties that were established were largely abolished by the late 1980s.

The idea was further revisited by the Banham Commission of 1992 and again in 2007, when a significant number of County Councils and their Districts were abolished in favour of Unitary Authorities, most notably in areas such as, Wales and, in England, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Shropshire and Northumberland, to name just four. In these areas Town and Parish Councils continued to operate. In addition, cities such as Leicester, Durham and Nottingham became Unitary Authorities in their own right. The majority of areas in England remain so called 'Two Tier' areas ('three tier' if you also include their Town and Parish Councils).

The case for change

Local Government is under attack. The Leader of Birmingham Council was quoted recently as saying that local government as we know it will disappear in the next few years unless it receives greater investment. The Local Government Association (LGA) recently published a report which reckoned that local authorities could be in the red to the tune of over £19 BILLION by 2020 unless something is done. Many District Councils up and down the country are facing bankruptcy and are already exploring ways of collaboration. Yet again central government has postponed the day of reckoning for many authorities by offering another bribe in the form of another Council Tax Freeze Grant. Recently, Lord Heseltine, in his review of the regions, has come out strongly in favour of unitary authorities at the expense of District and County Councils. Unitary authorities appear to be better equipped to weather the financial tsunami that is engulfing us. The current three tier system still operating in many parts of this country is a system we can no longer afford.

A Model for Lincolnshire

We feel that our county would benefit from a change in structure. There are various permutations, ranging from an option to turn the whole of Lincolnshire into one massive Unitary Authority, which we would resist, to options which would envisage the creation of up to four Unitary Authorities as well as a radical proposal to link the two Unitary Authorities south of the River Humber with the rest of Lincolnshire to create unitary governance from the Humber to the Wash. There will, of course, be some initial costs, as it may be necessary to contemplate some redundancies. These could be offset by the sale of certain assets. In any case, if examples elsewhere are anything to go by, the monies released would more than compensate.

The next steps

A Motion to the Lincolnshire County Council supporting the 'Unitary' approach in December 2012 failed to gain support. However, that should not be the end of the story. Our citizens need to be made aware that there could be a better way to run local government and central government needs to take note of this fact if we are to avoid even more massive cuts in these difficult financial time.

PLEASE SIGN the supporting e-petition at; http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/45973

We would welcome your views on this matter. If you wish to contact us, please feel free to do so.

Here are some contact details:

Cllr John Marriott Tel: 01522 687965 email: john@fnarg.demon.co.uk

David Harding- Price email: political@davidhardingprice.co.uk

Cllr Jim Charters email: jim.charters@ntlworld.com

Cllr John Bishop email: john66bishop@btinternet.com