Over 100 East Midlands Councillors sign letter calling for halt to Unitary Council plans

Over 100 Liberal Democrat councillors from across the East Midlands have signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, calling for a halt to controversial Government plans to abolish Borough and District Councils across the region and replace them with larger Unitary authorities.

The letter, signed by 118 Councillors, was jointly authored by Lib Dem Hinckley and Bosworth Borough and Leicestershire County Councillor Michael Mullaney and Leader of Chesterfield Lib Dem Councillors Paul Holmes.

Michael Mullaney said;

Abolishing Borough and District Councils and creating huge unitary authorities would be disruptive at anytime. But to be considering this disruption when we are still in the middle of a pandemic, which sadly looks like it will last for at least many more months, is totally irresponsible of the government. During the Covid-19 outbreak we have seen local Borough and District Councils step up to the plate with their local knowledge of the communities they serve to provide local support, like delivering food parcels to vulnerable people who were shielding, supporting businesses and co-ordinating local volunteers.

It’s a huge mistake for the Conservative government to now suggest scrapping these local councils to create large Unitary authorities. The proposals such as the suggested single Unitary Council for all of Leicestershire would create authorities that were more remote from the people they are meant to serve, and with less local knowledge and less responsive to local needs.

This letter signed by over a 100 Liberal Democrat Borough, County, District and City councillors across the East Midlands Region shows there is strong opposition to the government’s proposed new Unitary authorities. In addition To Lib Dem opposition there are many Conservative, Labour, Green and Independent councillors who are also opposed to the plans.

Cllr Paul Holmes added;

The idea of imposing huge Unitary Councils, covering wide geographical areas, is bad for local community representation and accountability. Coupling this with the imposition of directly elected Mayors covering entire Regions is not remotely Devolution but is fact centralisation of power into fewer and more remote and unaccountable hands. Across the country the electorate have almost always rejected such proposals when asked to vote on them.

We hope the Secretary of State will listen to our objections and understand that there is huge opposition to their disruptive, time consuming Unitary plans that will make local government in the East Midlands less local and more remote from the people it’s there to serve.

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  • John Marriott 5th Oct '20 - 1:13pm

    Many people will say that turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. That said, the present proposals are manifestly unsuitable. As someone in favour of a shakeup in local government, which means the abolition of the remaining County and District Councils, the question of the size of their replacements is vital. A unitary Council for a population of around 350,000 is fine. One for a population of up to 1,000,000 and with an elected Mayor on top creating an extra layer of bureaucracy, is just crazy!

  • Barry Lofty 5th Oct '20 - 3:20pm

    Who ever would believe that the Conservative party , particularly the present administration,would do anything that benefited anyone but themselves?

  • Peter Hirst 6th Oct '20 - 1:20pm

    The timing is far from ideal. I’m not sure they are necessarily a bad thing of coupled with an effective second tier. We need to beef up this largely powerless structure and consider some remuneration to attract a higher quality with more time and experience.

  • John Marriott 6th Oct '20 - 1:39pm

    An important part of any restructuring of local government has got to be an attempt to reboot our plethora of Town and Parish Councils. From my experience there are three types of Parish Council; the Proactive, the Reactive and the Inactive. I was fortunate to have served for twenty four years on what was largely a proactive Town Council, thanks in no small part to the activity of our Lib Dem Councillors. However, although the recipient of Quality Council status, we rarely required elections over that period and had often to resort to co option to fill vacancies. Perhaps a small councillor allowance, which is legal at this level, I believe, might have been a way of ‘encouraging’ a more diverse spread of citizens to stand for office.

    As for Mr Hirst’s view that “The timing is far from ideal”, I profoundly disagree. In so many areas of life, vibrant empowered local government, democratically accountable to the people it serves, even at its lowest level, is the cement that holds our society together. Now might even be rather late but now is when it needs to happen.

  • Tony Greaves 7th Oct '20 - 9:10pm

    Good stuff.

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