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Gloucestershire politicians reject calls for councils to be scrapped

By The Citizen  |  Posted: November 01, 2012

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MILLIONS of pounds could be preserved in the public purse by scrapping Gloucestershire's district councils, it has been claimed.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Michael Heseltine has drawn up a radical report calling for the introduction of single, unitary local authorities in place of the two-tier district council system.

But his plan has been greeted with a mixed reaction in Gloucestershire, where six district councils operate alongside the county council.

Councillor Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said: "We need councils to work together now to save money – not argue amongst themselves.

"The Secretary of State of Local Government has made it very clear, on a number of occasions, that he will not be permitting any local government reorganisations at present."

David Hagg, chief executive of Stroud District Council, said: "Lord Heseltine's proposals are geared to city regions and less so rural economies. Districts like ours are important drivers for jobs and growth through our housing and planning functions.

"In many ways we already act unitary and I say that with experience of having worked previously in a unitary environment."

Councillor Paul James, leader of Gloucester City Council, added: "I agree with Lord Heseltine about many things but not on this point. Local government reorganisation would be a big distraction from the economic challenges we face."

At the time of going to press, no one from the Forest of Dean District Council was available to comment.

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  • capital1978  |  November 02 2012, 10:29AM

    GlosYap2 It has happened in many areas already. Gloucestershire is no different. Council tax payers are always protected in these mergers. In reality the biggest issue is the vastly different council tax levels in Stroud and Tewkesbury. But again these problems have been successfully overcome in other areas.

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  • GlosYap2  |  November 02 2012, 10:01AM

    A calm voice: i havent heard much about the labour presented plans for unitary authorities in Gloucestershire (North). Can you provide some links to reading material for me? Bonkim: as far as my experience goes it will be very difficult to merge districts and county in many areas. Although the programmes such as OneGloucestershire and Leadership Gloucestershire are trying to move districts and county forward together in a strategic manner i can see that there are still many areas where districts are moving forward on their own or with other districts out of county. Coupled with contracts that are being implemented as we speak with private providers, i can see that private sector contractual obligations will be a major stumbling block to coordinating services across the county! The savings and efficiencies you are talking about will not be available for at least 10 years in a unitary context once the contract penalties are paid and the inevitable bunfights between politicians and staff are ironed out. Again, its a nice idea for the future but in the middle of a recession (as we are being told) we need to reduce outgoings and the cheapest course in the short term is the status quo.

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  • darrellglos  |  November 01 2012, 11:42PM

    Of course the Councillors would be against the idea, they not bothered about the possible savings that could be made if departments merged if a single Unitary Council was formed. What would most worry them would be the need for less Councillors plus the loss of the money they get every year. They could ask us the local people what we think but i imagine that will never happen. We just supply the money Council likes to spend.

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  • Bonkim2003  |  November 01 2012, 11:08PM

    GlosYap2 - Have you looked at effectiveness of present levels of representation, whether or not county and district effort in some of the common and main areas services are joined up? whether there is duplication, adequate technical and contract management capability in the districts, also what are the services provided by districts within the bigger picture, and what are the joint working arrangements already in place. You will find the answers revealing - the bulk of the expenditure is on admin staff, most of the high cost budget items - IT, Waste, and some others are tied up one way or the other with other councils/county with very little unique inputs from individual councils or capable of being influenced by democratic representation, most importantly, also cause for disjointed high cost delivery in areas such as waste collection (district), and treatment (county). To crown it all what is the contribution of democratic representation in cabinet style administrations, how many local residents understand the distinction between county and district services, and will it make any difference to them in overall service delivery. Please also look at the figures for participation in local elections to check what proportion of the total electorate participate in selecting their district councillors..

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  • SELINA30  |  November 01 2012, 9:40PM

    Heseltine is right. The councils are wasting £millions on duplication while at the same time making cuts to local services.

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  • capital1978  |  November 01 2012, 1:58PM

    geraint2010 nail on the head.

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  • geraint2010  |  November 01 2012, 1:47PM

    A common-sense proposal which naturally local councillors will oppose. After all - turkeys wouldn't vote for Christmas would they?!

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  • a_calm_voice  |  November 01 2012, 10:55AM

    This is a good idea but it was thrown out by local councillors when Labour proposed it a few years back. At present there are roughly 300 councillors which is a huge number compared with other places with similar populations. South Gloucestershire has been a successful unitary authority for several years. The remaining Gloucestershire County Council area should be split in two - West Gloucestershire (roughly the present Gloucester, Stroud and FoD council districts) and North East Gloucestershire (Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Cotswolds). That way we'd have three unitary authorities each with about the same populations to service. But it won't happen whilst the Tory and Lib Dem majority councillors go on clinging desperately to their council seats...

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  • GlosYap2  |  November 01 2012, 10:01AM

    "It would be useful to get some more of the precept from rich council tax payers in wealthier districts (Cotswolds) better spread across the county to the poorer parts. Having a Unitary authority might help achieve this. My view would be that it would be unlikely to result in a single unified authority though, more likely two! Savings and efficiencies do not always go hand in hand and far more important than saving money or making running more efficient anyway would be to ensure that the people of Gloucestershire would be better (or no less well) politically represented than now, services retain (or even improve) their localised focus and the county would not recieve less funding from Central government as a result. I am a little sick of those who push for "saving money", above representation, as the be and end all role of government these days. Smacks of facism."

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  • Lecorche  |  November 01 2012, 9:44AM

    Oh dear.The Nano-Napoleons have got the hump. Unity is a word that brings terror to their lives.

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