Melton Council’s leader has voiced concerns that a plan to abolish the authority and other district councils in favour of a new unitary authority for Leicestershire would have an adverse impact on services and resources in the borough.
We reported this afternoon (Friday) that county council leader Nick Rushton and the majority Conservative group at County Hall had put forward the proposal as a more cost-effective alternative to the current two-tier system of local government.
If approved by the government, it would mean the county council and seven district councils, including Melton, being scrapped in a favour of a single super council managing issues such as planning, housing, environment, transport and social care for the whole of Leicestershire.
But Melton Council leader, Councillor Joe Orson, who is also a county councillor, said this afternoon: “My first reaction is concern that this will make services more remote, take resources and focus away from Melton, and be a big distraction and a costly exercise.
“Naturally, however, when we receive more information we will review further to understand the impact on Melton and its residents.
“As a council we share the ambition to get the best for Leicestershire and the wider region and are always ready to explore ways to improve services and value for money to our residents, but are also very mindful of the potential challenges and issues any major reorganisation could create.”
Councillor Rushton said he had written to the new Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, asking for a meeting to discuss the new proposals. He said he and his colleagues were concerned about the dwindling funding the current two-tier set-up of local government was being given.
He and his colleagues say the move would improve services in boroughs such as Melton and save £30million a year by having fewer bosses, councillors and offices.
They say the government’s plans to invest £20million in the NHS was a ‘game changer’ because it showed there was not enough money to go around the public sector at a time when County Hall needed to reduce costs by £50million over the next four years after already saving £178million since 2010.
Councillor Orson stressed that Melton borough residents would be fully consulted before any change was made, adding: “These proposals are at an early stage and will be the subject of significant scrutiny and discussion to establish whether they should proceed.
“As these proposals develop I will be keen to ensure that Melton residents are kept informed, are given the opportunity to have their say, and that any proposed changes do actually make a positive difference.
“For now though it is important to reassure residents it is business as usual at Melton Borough Council.”