Commons votes to axe Cleveland

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The Independent Online
Cleveland County Council lost its battle for survival last night when MPs voted for its abolition.

The Commons voted for an end to the council by 310 votes to 223. It now remains only for the House of Lords to vote on the Government's proposal to leave the full range of local-government services on Teesside in the hands of four smaller, unitary councils.

Cleveland was one of three new county councils created during the 1974 local-government reorganisation. The others are Avon and Humberside. Now the Government and the Local Government Commission that it set up two-and-a-half years ago have agreed that they should go, to be replaced by single-tier unitary councils based largely on existing, smaller district councils. Cleveland is the first to come before Parliament.

Yesterday, the LGC also completed its review of the 39 shire counties of England, publishing final recommendations for the last five. The commission, chaired by Sir John Banham, former CBI director general, recommended no change to the county and district councils in Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire and Shropshire.

But in Derbyshire it recommended that Derby City Council should take control of all the local-government functions which had been split between the city and the county council. Elsewhere in Derbyshire the existing system remains, with services divided between county and district councils.

The county's Tory MPs had pressed for the Labour-run Derbyshire County Council to be abolished. But the LGC found little support for abolishing the county council outside the city.

Ministers launched the review of local government outside England's seven largest conurbations in the hope that unitary, single-tier authorities would predominate. But after widespread consultation the commission recommended leaving the two-tier structure intact through most of the shires.

However, it recommends 45 new unitary authorities covering a population of more than 8 million people and calls for cities such as Bristol, Leicester, Nottingham, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton and Stoke-on-Trent to regain control of all their local government services.

Mr Gummer now has to decide whether to modify any of the commission's proposals, then take the reorganisation through Parliament.