Concrete proposals have today been unveiled to establish a single super council for Leicestershire which would lead to the abolition of the county’s seven district authorities including Melton Borough Council.
The controversial idea was first mooted by Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton in June last year in a bid to save £30million of Council Tax-payers money every year, reduce the duplication and protect front line services.
And County Hall has today produced a draft 100-page blueprint for the reorganisation of local government which compares different options and concludes that a unitary authority combining all the activities of the district councils and the county council would be a much better alternative to the current two-tier council system.
Last September the leaders of all the district councils - Melton, Blaby, Charnwood, Harborough, Hinckley and Bosworth, North West Leicestershire and Oadby and Wigston - released a joint letter calling on Councillor Rushton to drop his bid for a single council and for the districts and the county council to meet discuss a more collaborative approach to reorganising the structure.
And Melton Council then cancelled a planned meeting on the issue a year ago after Leicestershire’s seven MPs had met with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, and concluded that it was not a good time for discussions to take place on local government reorganisation.
The district councils have today released a new statement to reiterate their stance that they think a collaborative approach would be the best way forward.
But Mr Rushton says he is determined to continue with the plans and says the new blueprint - an independent review of the draft strategic business case by Price Waterhouse Coopers - represents a sound basis for presenting potential savings and planning the next steps.
He said: “In my view, unitary local government works.
“Creating a council fit for the 21st century would save £30m each year, improve services, reduce confusion and duplication and get a better deal for our residents.
“Local government still faces severe, long-term financial challenges – and these are likely to get worse since the government is having to delay its fair funding review.
“Add in the backdrop of national uncertainty, and that’s why we need to be ready for a new government and a new domestic policy agenda, particularly if it continues to be dominated by tackling the shortage of funding for local services.
“I look forward to hearing the views of the Scrutiny Commission and hope that in December the county council can agree a settled position.”
The new document will be discussed by the cabinet at County Hall on Tuesday October 22 and, if approved, it will be considered by the Scrutiny Commission on October 30, the cabinet on November 22 and the county council on December 4.
The district councils have issued a new joint-statement in response to the release of the blueprint.
It says: “The seven district councils in Leicestershire continue to work collaboratively to deliver highly-effective and efficient services to residents.
“Proposed changes to the structure of local government in Leicestershire failed to receive support last year from district councils or MPs.
“It is our view that better and cheaper services can be delivered through greater collaboration while keeping services local to the people who use them.
“There is an open invitation to the county council to work with us on ideas for future collaboration.”