A CRUCIAL debate on whether to slash the number of local councils in Warwickshire in order to make massive savings is to take place at Shire Hall in Warwick on Tuesday next week (25th February).
The debate will be held during a meeting of Warwickshire County Council and its purpose is to consider if the current six local authorities in the county should be replaced by a single unitary authority.
This would mean the abolition of the county council itself, along with the existing five district and borough councils, including Stratford-on-Avon District Council.
It could also result in a reduction of £30 a year in council tax for people living in a typical Band D property.
In a statement this afternoon the county council said it believed it was in the public interest to explore the opportunities of unitary local government.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe (Cons, Stour and the Vale), the leader of the county council, said: “Over the next four years the county council has to save £92 million.
"When we consulted with the public on the proposals for our budget savings, a number of respondents indicated that we should be considering unitary local government to protect services.
“There are 545,000 residents, more than £1 billion in funding and we have 272 councillor roles across six councils (three district and two borough councils and one county council) representing us.
“There have already been discussions with the leaders of the three main political parties in the county council, and a report will go for debate at a meeting of the full council on Tuesday, 25th February.
Cllr Seccombe added: “We have a significant role to play in delivering essential local services for the people of Warwickshire and should do so in the most effective and efficient way.
“The intention is to start an open and inclusive debate which will have at its core the interests of our citizens, and what makes sense to them, and the long term viability of local government in Warwickshire.
“Local government has significant savings to make and we expect that the public sector will be the subject of further austerity measures beyond 2018.
“We therefore believe that unitary local government merits further exploration in the interests of Warwickshire residents. We feel that this is the start of a crucial conversation which would benefit from the widest possible engagement and should be embraced as early on as possible.”
The report going for debate states that unitary local government for Warwickshire could mean:
1) A reduction in Council Tax of £30 per year for an average Band D property based on moving to a single council.
2) The six councils in Warwickshire reducing to one (or two) councils delivering all services.
3) Residents having a single contact point making it easier for them to access all the services they need.
4) Local democracy being easier to understand (i.e. who represents you, how you access services, who makes decisions that affect you, etc).
5) The number of councillors in Warwickshire reducing from more than 250 currently to less than 100, meaning quicker decisions and less cost.
6) Councillors only sitting on one council, thus eliminating any conflict between differing priorities.
7) Other public bodies (such as the police, health and probation, etc) only dealing with one council, making delivery of joined-up public services more efficient.
8) Service delivery across Warwickshire being integrated and better connected without the need for costly and sometimes lengthy negotiations between the different councils in Warwickshire.
9) Less spent on administration and more money being targeted more effectively on the services that people need.
10) New council(s) being able to operate more efficiently through streamlined processes and economies of scale.
11) An estimated saving for Warwickshire of between £12m per year (two councils) and £17m per year (a single council) – that over four years would generate savings of £48m to £68m which could be used to protect services.
What is unitary local government?
Unitary local government is where a single council delivers all local services.
Warwickshire is currently a two-tier local authority area. This means that some services are delivered by Warwickshire County Council, such as social care, highways and education, and others are delivered by the district and borough councils, such as housing, leisure and refuse collection.
This can cause confusion for the public in who is accountable and responsible for which service.
If Warwickshire converted to convert to unitary status, the current structure of six councils would be replaced with either a single authority delivering all services across Warwickshire or possibly two authorities, both delivering all services within their geographical boundary (for example, North Warwickshire and South Warwickshire).
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