Melton Council has pulled out of a countywide review of proposals to abolish it and the six other district councils and replace them with a single super council for Leicestershire.
County Hall leader Nick Rushton announced in the summer that he wanted the county to be run by a unitary authority instead of the current two-tier set-up comprising Leicestershire County Council and seven district councils.
A detailed report on the proposals predicts that a single council would save the tax-payer £30million by consolidating services and reducing the number of councillors, offices and employees needed to operate them.
Melton Council leader, Councillor Joe Orson, and his counterparts at Blaby, Charnwood, Oadby and Wigston, North West Leicestershire, Harborough and Hinckley and Bosworth had pledged to work together to explore alternative models of local government which would be more cost-effective in the light of recent funding cuts.
But this week, Councillor Orson has circulated a letter to fellow members of the council informing them that Melton would spend no more money on the review 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.
His letter stated: “The MPs have advised that they feel no more public funds should be spent on this issue and that there are more pressing regional and national policy matters which should be the focus of our attention and resources over the next few months and years.
“Given local government reorganisation requires parliamentary approval, and therefore the support of our MPs, it is clearly no longer necessary or appropriate to commission a review of existing local authority structures within Leicestershire and Melton Borough Council will devote no more time or attention to it at this time.”
Councillor Orson said the council had now cancelled an extraordinary meeting scheduled for November 13, which would have discussed the proposals for a unitary Leicestershire authority.
His letter added: “We continue to recognise that public funds are under pressure and that we have an obligation to deliver the best possible services to our residents.
“We will continue to work collaboratively with our colleagues in the district and borough councils, county council and our MPs to ensure we can meet this ambition and are keen to explore how we can more effectively work together to meet the financial challenge.”
Councillor Rushton had come up with his single council plan because of devastating government funding cuts at County Hall, which has seen the authority have to make savings of £200million since 2010 with a requirement to find further efficiencies of an estimated £50million over the next four years.
He said he was ‘disappointed’ that Leicestershire MPs had concluded that unitary talks should be ended so early in the process but that County Hall would continue its review into the structure of local government locally.
“We have just started the conversation and it’s too soon to draw the debate to a close,” said Councillor Rushton.
“I understand that this is a difficult topic and we are challenging the status quo.
“But we face serious financial challenges here and we cannot simply reject ideas which could potentially save many millions for the people of Leicestershire without the proper discussion.
“I look forward to hearing more from the people who matter most, namely our Council Tax payers and, amongst others, the business community and our partners across the public and voluntary sector, before we finalise any possible proposals.”