Council leader welcomes report on future of authorities
By Rob Freeman | 3rd September 2020
A report which warns against merging local authorities has been backed by the leader of a Gloucestershire council which could vanish under rival proposals.
The District Councils' Network report said mergers - which could see Gloucestershire's county council and six district, borough, city and town councils merged into two authorities - risk alienating communities.
It is urging the Government, which is planning a reorganisation of local government, not to follow proposals which the County Councils Network said could save close to £3billion across five years.
And Councillor Tim Gwilliam, leader of Forest of District Council, has welcomed the DCN assessment,
He said: "Given the dual challenges of COVID-19 and Brexit, I am sure most people in the UK will look at the idea of local government reorganisation as rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
"Central Government is to publish its white paper on this shortly so it is important that we make the case for genuinely local democracy and the DCN does just that."
Last week Cheltenham Borough Council, Cotswold District Council and Stroud District Council agreed to explore options for changes, although Gloucestershire County Council leader Councillor Mark Hawthorne described plans for two unitary authorities as mad.
Mr Gwilliam said: "We in the Forest of Dean already share services through a single provider in Publica with Cotswold District Council, Cheltenham Borough Council and West Oxfordshire District Council.
"We have taken the steps those advocating a single unitary authority would have us take.
"The only thing left to cut is true local representation and at this moment in time, that would be catastrophic to areas such as ours."
He continued: "Devolution should assist district councils and partners, like Local Enterprise Partnerships, to lead strategic issues such as infrastructure, transport and inward investment across wider economic areas.
"Rather than automatically looking to create a giant distant and cumbersome Gloucestershire authority, we should be spending time working with other districts, having those local discussions with each other to see where we can work together.
"Included in those discussions should be our county council, our town and parish councils, our MPs, our local businesses and the whole range of non-council public services - all the while retaining their focus on delivering for communities.
"Devolution has to give those best placed to deliver the opportunity to do so."
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