District leaders urge campaigners to drop plans for single Leicestershire super council

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The leaders of seven district councils, including Melton, have today (Tuesday) urged campaigners for a single Leicestershire super council to drop their plans.

County Hall leader Nick Rushton unveiled his proposals for unitary status back in June when he said it would save taxpayers £30million a year by having fewer bosses, councillors and offices.

If the move goes ahead it would see the abolition of Melton Borough Council, the other six district councils and Leicestershire County Council, with the likelihood that Melton would be governed on a local level by a much smaller town council.

District leaders have written to the county council this week and urged it to consider dropping its unitary bid and called for an urgent meeting to discuss a more collaborative approach on the future of local government.

A letter signed by the leaders of Blaby, Charnwood, Harborough, Hinckley and Bosworth, Melton, North West Leicestershire and Oadby and Wigston councils states that they are not opposed to the plans but would like to see more alternative new models to consider alongide the case for a single council and a longer consultation period than the six-week one which has been suggested.

Part of the letter reads: “We doubt that the Secretary of State would consider an option for a single unitary council entirely based upon the work that the county council has by itself done and without any other proposals being evidenced and put forward which can be examined to see if they provide a better solution.

“If the county council continues its stance we will be making representations to the Secretary of State that your proposals, developed in isolation, are unreasonable and are not in accordance with the requirements of the act, or able to satisfy the statutory guidance.”

The letter continues: “In short, we are advised and believe that there is a strong argument to be made that the proposals from the county at present are unreasonable and unlikely to satisfy either the criteria set out in the legislation or the county council’s duty to act reasonably.

“We repeat that it is not the case that we are necessarily opposed to change, and it may be that unitary reorganisation is the eventual outcome.

“What we are concerned about is that this must be done properly, with all key stakeholders working together to fully assess the best option for Leicestershire.”

Melton Council leader, Councillor Joe Orson, said he was pleased that his colleagues in other Leicestershire districts favoured a more collaborative approach on the issue.

He said: “We are open to different models of working in local government as long as they deliver quality services for the community in the most effective and efficient way.

“I sincerely hope the county will see the benefit of us all working together and that we have the opportunity to agree a way forward that secures the best outcomes for our communities.”

Councillor Rushton reacted swiftly to the letter this afternoon, pointing out that his officers had been tasked to draw up more than one alternative new model for local government and he called on the district council leaders to make their proposals for reorganisation public.

He said he welcomed the suggestion for all parties to work together on future reorganisation but said the leaders had misunderstood some of his proposals and that there would be extensive public consultation after a period of engagement with key stakeholders starting in the middle of next month.

Part of a letter sent by Councillor Rushton to the district council leaders reads: “The county council’s proposals will be shared with the districts when they are published for the cabinet meeting on October 16.

“As I said when you issued a statement in July (when I also made clear that the Cabinet had requested the development of proposals and had not specified any particular option), I believe that having proposals on the table can only be helpful.

“If you are working up proposals for reorganisation, as appears to be the case from your letter, I hope you will share them with the county council as we will be doing with the districts.”