A public consultation into plans to create a single super council for Leicestershire, and in the process closing down Melton Council and six other district councils, is likely to be held as early as this autumn.
County council leader Nick Rushton has announced he is leading a drive to establish a unitary authority, which would take over all local government responsibilities because he says it will be more cost-effective and save the tax-payer £30million a year.
We reported last week that Melton MP Sir Alan Duncan was vehemently against the idea and Melton Council also voiced concerns, with fears that services and resources will be lost from the borough in a new authority controlled from the city of Leicester.
But Councillor Rushton is pressing ahead with the plan with initial proposals to be finalised over the summer ahead of that consultation, which involve residents, district councils, businesses, MPs and other relevant parties.
A full public consultation on more detailed proposals is then planned for early next year.
Councillor Rushton said: “I have decided to start a debate about how best to deliver local government services in Leicestershire.
“It’s important we consider sensible options to get a better deal for our tax-payers and those who rely on public services.
“For now, we must accept that the two-tier local government system is broken.
“It’s bureaucratic, old-fashioned, confusing, inefficient and takes money away from front-line services.”
“One, 21st century council would reduce duplication of services, save at least £30million each year and improve services,” Councillor Rushton added.
“Working with parishes and creating town councils in places like Loughborough and Coalville would also enable us to build stronger links with communities - giving residents a greater say in local services.
“Other unitary councils are already experiencing these benefits.”
Friday’s county council cabinet meeting saw discussions and approval of a report about next steps and timings.
Officers will also now work with east midlands colleagues to develop plans for a strategic alliance for the region.
Councillor Rushton added: “We now need to spend time exploring and working up more detailed options for the structure of local government in Leicestershire, drawing on research and the experiences of other councils.
“Seeking the views of residents, district councils, MPs, businesses, universities and others is key and I look forward to a constructive and informed debate.”