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Your reform calls are not on, your lordship
THE future of district councils across Worcestershire is up for debate today – with a controversial recommendation that they are scrapped set to be heavily criticised.
Lord Heseltine, who has been appointed by the Government to come up with ideas for saving public money, wants to see district town halls axed and replaced by unitary authorities. The content of his report, which will be published today, has already been leaked and suggests the Government back the biggest shake-up in history of local government.
But it has put him on a collision course with senior politicians in the county, who have labelled it “an enormous distraction” from continued efforts to share services and boost economic growth. Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader of Worcestershire County Council, said: “It would be an enormous distraction from what we are trying to do. I also believe the costs would be far greater than any real savings and am not at all convinced any case has been made for it.”
Councillor David Hughes, leader of Malvern Hills District Council, said: “It flies on the face of what we are doing here. The Localism Agenda is all about evolving power to communities, but this seems to go the opposite way. We’ve got a system that works and are striving to be even more lean and efficient. “We give our district a voice – it would be a real shame to lose that.”
The nearest unitary area to this county is Herefordshire County Council, which was created in 1998 when it broke away from Worcestershire to form a new single-tier body.
But Councillor Simon Geraghty, leader of Worcester City Council, said: “I respect Lord Heseltine but this is an unhelpful suggestion, and a red herring. The costs of reform are always much more than anyone could expect, as well as a real distraction.”
COMMENT: PAGE 16