Cotswold DC against Unitary Local Government

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The Cotswold Blog is a collection of diary entries, news, gossip and other Cotswold related information.

Cotswold DC against Unitary Local Government

Cotswold District Council today pledged its commitment to delivering services locally and resisting major moves towards centralisation.

In its recently published White Paper, the Government has invited all councils to consider bidding for unitary status or opting for 'pathfinder' two-tier arrangements by January 25th 2007:

Councils who do not choose either of these options are expected to pursue new two-tier arrangements to achieve the same level of improvement and efficiency gains as the new unitaries and pathfinders.

County councils across England have been considering the benefits of going unitary and they believe savings of £15m to £20m per annum could be achieved in each county area.

Given that the combined budgets of Gloucestershire County Council and six districts is £700m per annum, such a saving would represent 2.5% of that total budget.

Cotswold District Council Leader Cllr Lynden Stowe said: "The District Council has already introduced a programme of improvements that will deliver savings of 3% per annum in our budget. It should be possible for the county and the districts to achieve a further 2.5 % by working more closely together to make savings.

"Of course, this means that the bulk of those savings have to be made by the county council given that their budget is £600 million."

Cllr Stowe added that the District Council believed that any reorganisation of local government was an unnecessary and expensive distraction.

He said: "We believe that improved working with the county council should involve more devolution rather than centralisation as the people of the Cotswolds expect local services to be delivered locally.

"Our over-riding concern is what is best for the Cotswolds. Our residents also tell us that we are already efficiently delivering more than 100 services including waste collection, recycling, leisure centres, planning and environmental health.

"We want to build on the joint work we already doing with the other local councils in Gloucestershire in areas such as crime reduction, services for the elderly, emergency planning, legal services and printing.

"We want to keep the identity and the character of the Cotswolds – it must not be subsumed by the wider county. We are a rural District with our own specific priorities.

"There is no evidence to suggest that unitary councils deliver better savings or services than two-tier arrangements. I simply do not believe there is a need to reinvent the wheel to make efficiency savings of around 2.5 per cent."

The resolution of Council from today's meeting of full Council is as follows:

This Council believes reorganisation of local government in Gloucestershire to be an unnecessary and expensive distraction. There is no evidence that it will deliver benefits to the people of the Cotswolds.

This Council reaffirms its commitment to delivering services locally, and to devolution rather than centralisation.

This Council believes that it discharges its duties effectively and efficiently. It pro-actively seeks opportunities for efficiency, productivity, better procurement and reduced management costs.

Our intention is to deliver cost efficient services and value for money. In so doing this Council welcomes opportunities for closer and enhanced joint working and partnership with other authorities.

In particular we would like to explore:

1. Greater co-location of County and District services in our Cirencester and Moreton-in-Marsh offices.
2. Co-location of customer information services where practicable, e.g. Stow Library/VIC.
3. Improved links between CDC Front of House services to County services.
4. Improving cost efficiencies in support functions, e.g. Legal, Personnel, Property.
5. Cost efficiencies through joint working with other districts.

Our overriding parameter will, though, always be "What is Best for the Cotswolds".

Cotswold District Council confirms that it will not support either a Unitary or Pathfinder bid for Gloucestershire Councils, and instructs the Chief Executive to communicate this response to the County Council and other Gloucestershire Districts.

Posted : 28/11/2006 18:07:47

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