In its latest potential cost cutting move, London has released a report indicating that £3 billion could be saved over five years if 213 of England’s smaller district councils are merged into 25 new local authorities.
And as anticipated, the battle lines are already being drawn up either side of what people see as manageable at the local level with claims that the larger the council, the less democratic it is.
Either way, the UK’s national government in Westminster will reportedly soon put forward its own proposals on the same issue including the possibility of doing away with the current system of local district and wider county councils altogether to bring into play larger area authorities.
It is a move already being studied in some areas in the South, Midlands and Northern England as Leicestershire, and North Yorkshire most notably, along with Surrey, look to replace both of their local regions’ current two tier councils with larger bodies.
Ironically, no single unified voice has made comment on the report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, although Councillor David Williams, the Conservative leader of Hertfordshire County Council, and current chairman of the County Councils Network has now said to British media that in England there is a “compelling” case for larger authorities to run the country at the local level.
Williams said in an interview of his own 1.2 million population county “(there) are 11 chief executives, 526 councillors, 10 planning teams – so there is an awful lot of complexity, and there is a lot of cost.”
And as if on cue, a number of opposition Labour leaders have immediately opposed the plans, including Sharon Taylor, the opposition Labour leader of Stevenage Council, also in Hertfordshire – the county’s minority party after the Conservatives – who told the BBC that the county is “just too big” to be managed by a single authority.
“Centralising local services (seems) entirely wrong,” Taylor said, adding, Britain now has the”least representation at local level of anywhere in Europe already”.