Abolition of The District Councils

May 18, 2006 by  

John Prescott now longer has the ODPM and David Miliband has moved on. Several senior civil servants are no longer involved.  It is rumoured that the Government does not wish to take on some County and District Councils.  The White Paper will now be published towards the end of October.

Recent election candidates for District Councils might find that the losers have the last laugh almost immediately as their office will most likely abolished with the District Councils as early as 2008 by the Labour Government.

The Labour Government is even thinking of calling off the next District Council elections due in 2007 to make way for early abolition of the District Councils.

The Chief Executive of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), John Findlay says as follows;

David Miliband MP, formerly the Minister for Communities and Local Government, has in the last few weeks confirmed officially that the Government has embarked on a major programme of change in local government, including:

•   A shift to unitary authorities in county/district areas

• ‘Double devolution’ of powers from government to principal authorities and, more significantly, from
principal authorities to community bodies such as town and parish councils

•   A radical reform of local government funding

•   New ‘City Regions’ to co-ordinate strategic functions in the major conurbations.

Principal authorities (The County Councils) have now been invited to submit proposals for the transformation of their areas into a unitary system. Meetings between ODPM and groups of principal authorities are currently taking place across the country. It is hoped that the process will be
extensively complete by 2009. (That could mean 2008 for some abolitions?)

Such a way forward would provide for three tiers of governance:

•    Regional government, through government regional offices, regional assemblies and RDAs

• County- and city-based government through a nationwide system of unitary principal authorities

• Community governance provided through new and existing structures built into the ‘neighbourhoods’
agenda, including a key and developed role for parish and town councils.

Although there will be scope for some county areas to be broken down into new unitaries created by merging some districts, it is clear that the government’s intention is to eliminate district councils. The Minister has stated that are inefficient, expensive and too remote from local communities.
So the time is nigh to recognise  the unthinkable. A Super Unitary Council comprising Southend, Castle
Point and Rochford District? What will happen to green belt?  Everything concerning green belt will be up  for development as Southend gets new space to expand and sprawl.

Lord Hanningfield, Conservative Leader of Essex County Council, is trying to fight a rearguard action with the Essex Districts to provide a survival plan to Ruth Kelly MP, the Minister for Communities and Local Government, but David Miliband is clear on what he wants to hear; no county councils, no district councils just the Regional Assembly and Unitaries.  Lord Hanningfield’s attempts for survival will be just sent back to him to do it again as the Labour Government requires.  Looking at the government timetable this will be all over before the next General Election in 2010.

But what about the Town Councils and the Parish Councils?

The Parish Councils appear safe.

Sir Michael Lyons, head of the government inquiry into the form and finance of local government, said at a
recent NLGN conference that ‘ if you look at an active parish council, involved with its community, then
you cannot find a better model for local community governance’.

But there is a big BUT.  Parish Councils have, traditionally, not been regarded as battle grounds for the
main political parties to have their turf wars for control of each council. But as you can see the Tories  and Labour have already been scrapping this year for control of Rochford Parish Council. Will this mean
that proportional political representation on committees and the power to appoint the chair or a portfolio
holder to the village hall committee?


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