NEWSFLASH: Plans unveiled to abolish Melton Council and create new Leicestershire super council

Melton Borough Council offices in Parkside, off Burton Street EMN-180629-125957001
Melton Borough Council offices in Parkside, off Burton Street EMN-180629-125957001
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Melton Borough Council will be abolished if proposals from a group of county councillors are approved by the government to create a single unitary authority for Leicestershire.

The plan has been drawn up by County Hall leader Nick Rushton and the Conservative group of councillors, who say it would improve services and save £30million a year by having fewer bosses, councillors and offices.

Melton MP Sir Alan Duncan has today (Friday) vowed to fight the proposals, which would see the end of the county council and all seven district councils, including Melton, and the creation of one super council to manage issues such as planning, housing, transport and social care.

Councillor Rushton said: “I believe the time has come to consider having a modern, progressive council for Leicestershire, to replace the county council and the seven district councils.

“Whilst I have my own preference of a single council with direct links to local communities through towns and parishes, there may be other options to consider.

“For now, we must accept that the two-tier local government system across the UK is broken, bureaucratic, old fashioned, confusing, inefficient and takes money away from front-line services.

“A unitary council would save money, as well as simplify and improve services.”

The proposals follow conversations with council leaders in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire about how they could join up as part of a strategic alliance, to counterbalance what they see as a growing power and influence enjoyed by the West Midlands Combined Authority.

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.

The county council has saved £178million since 2010 and needs to reduce costs by another £50million over the next four years.

County Hall has a revenue budget of £350million compared to £75million enjoyed by the district councils as a collective.

Councillor Rushton added: “It’s important that the East Midlands is not overshadowed by the West Midlands.

“I’ve been talking to other councils about how we make full use of powers over planning, transport and investment to maximise our collective clout.

“This is vital for Leicestershire’s economy – building the right skills, creating quality jobs and housing.

“The financial outlook for local government in Leicestershire is bleak so it’s important we consider all options to get a better deal for our tax payers.

“But it’s not just about saving money – it’s about making a real difference to people’s lives and building stronger links with communities.

“A new, single council would improve accountability and give Leicestershire a stronger voice.”

Options for a new set-up will now be drawn up, including proposals for a consultation with residents, businesses and other partners for discussion by the council’s scrutiny commission, cabinet and full county council later this year.

Melton’s MP reacted angrily to the moves today and he said residents across the county were better served by having locally-elected representatives dealing with local issues at Melton Borough Council, Blaby District Council, Charnwood Borough Council, Harborough District Council, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, North West Leicestershire District Council and Oadby and Wigston Borough Council.

Sir Alan told the Melton Times: “I find it deeply offensive that this has been launched as a unitary policy because I don’t know anyone on a local level who is in favour of it.

“I sense county MPs are strongly opposed to it and will defend our districts and boroughs.

“If anyone thinks local planning decisions are better taken at Glenfield than in Melton then they must be mad.”

Sir Alan said he would fight the proposals in parliament if they got that far and added: “This has not been politically prepared - it is a declaration of war against MPs and our councils.

“It is unacceptable for them to tell us they want to abolish local councils in favour of centralised power in Glenfield.

“This is utterly ill conceived, badly prepared and insultingly launched. The answer is no.”

What do you think? Would Melton be better served by a Leicester-based unitary authority or do you think the current two-tier organisation is a more effective system of local government for the borough? Email nick.rennie@jpress.co.uk with your views.