Unitary report sets out case for change

Date posted: October 8, 2018
Nick Rushton

A new report sets out drivers and options for re-shaping local government in Leicestershire.

The paper, published today (Friday) by Leicestershire County Council, outlines the financial challenges facing councils and assesses potential different unitary structures.

In the summer, council leader Nick Rushton, said he wanted to “start a conversation” about re-drawing the shape of local government in Leicestershire.

Nick Rushton said

The financial situation facing councils is bleak. And with service demands and national funding reductions ramping up, it’s clear we have to consider change.

Across Leicestershire, local government is facing millions of pounds of savings, meaning we simply can’t go on paying for old fashioned bureaucracy and duplication. “The time is right to explore the possible solutions to save money and join up services – this has to be about services for residents, not structures.

The cabinet report shows there is a strong case for a single unitary council but also assesses a two-council option. As I have said all along, I hope the district councils will put forward options themselves and I am pleased that they all now recognise that change is required.

This would be the biggest shake-up locally for almost 50 years. And that means working together with councillors and other stakeholders to draw up a new structure, fit for the 21st century, and I look forward to hearing their views.

Now, the county council plans to engage with MPs, district councils, parish and town councils, businesses, universities, the voluntary sector and other stakeholders.

A cross-party working group – to provide advice, challenge and feedback on proposals and next steps – is being set up and is due to feedback to cabinet next spring. Dependent on the outcome of this engagement, a public consultation could follow in the summer.

The report will be considered by the cabinet on 16 October – watch the meeting online.

The report says:

  • A single council would save £30m a year – a two-council option would save £18m a year, but other factors are also taken into account in the assessment
  • The county council has saved £200m since 2010, and needs to save another £50m by 2022 – its current four-year budget includes £90 million to for growing service demand
  • It’s estimated £62m savings are needed across the county and district councils up to 2022

A unitary structure could

  • Bring improvements for residents and businesses by joining up services and reducing council costs
  • Reduce the number of councillors but strengthen their role
  • See a stronger role for town and parish councils, possibly establishing new town councils where they don’t exist for areas that want them
  • Create new area committees to take decisions over planning and development control locally
  • Reduce the number of senior managers and duplication of services
  • Create the option of reducing Council Tax

Read the report: www.leicestershire.gov.uk/newcouncil


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