The leaders of seven district and borough councils, including Melton, which are threatened by plans to establish one super council to govern the whole of Leicestershire, have agreed to work together to review the effectiveness of the current two-tier system of local government in the county.
County council leader Nick Rushton unveiled in June his proposals to form a unitary authority, which would mean one single council would replace the current set-up where County Hall manages highways, education and social services and borough councils oversee issues such as planning, environmental health and social housing.
Mr Rushton says unitary status, with town councils managing areas such as Melton, would streamline local government and save around £30million a year.
Melton MP Sir Alan Duncan has vemently opposed the proposal and has joined critics who say it would take resources and services away from rural areas outside the city of Leicester.
Melton Council leader, Councillor Joe Orson, and his counterparts at Charnwood, Blaby, Hinckley and Bosworth, Harborough, Oadby and Wigston and North West Leicestershire Councils have decided to collaborate to determine whether a two-tier or single tier system is the best way of governing the districts.
A statement issued by the leaders reads: “This new collaborative approach will examine what is both cost effective in how services may be delivered and how best to retain their link with local residents.
“Such models may mean stronger district councils working within a combined authority or having multiple unitary authorities or whether the current structure is still the best way of delivering local services.”
The group say time should be taken over what would be a huge shift in the way council services are administered and delivered if there was a move to unitary status.
The group added in their statement: “We have a number of reservations as to the model proposed by the county council, not least the rushed timetable and it being too remote for local residents.
“However, we recognise that it may be premature to rule it out at this early stage.
“Accordingly, the council leaders have pledged to work together to find the right solution for the residents of Leicestershire and look forward to engaging with our elected partners, stakeholders and residents to deliver the best in local government for Leicestershire and the East Midlands region.
“We would invite the county council and others to join us in this approach, as collectively, we have the expertise to determine the best solution for our residents.”
Initial proposals for the bid for unitary status are being drawn up at the moment with a consultation expected to be launched in November involving residents, district councils, businesses, MPs and other relevant parties.
A full public consultation on more detailed proposals is then planned for early next year.