District council chiefs fuel war with counties

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The Independent Online
CHIEF EXECUTIVES of more than half of England's district councils call in a letter to the Independent today for support for government plans which would abolish many existing county authorities. The 164 town clerks and chief executives come from councils of all political colours but are united by a desire for 'a stronger, more efficient system of local government'. Their stance is likely to intensify a bitter power struggle with the counties.

Officials from eight of the biggest of England's non-metropolitan cities - Bristol, Leicester, Nottingham, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent, Derby, Portsmouth and Southampton - have all signed the demand for single status, which would give them control over education, social services and transport.

Their comments are clearly intended to influence the councils review being carried out by the Local Government Commission. 'Our case is simple but, we believe, compelling . . . A single-tier system will remove the confusion that currently exists over who provides which services; and in doing so will make local government far more accountable,' says the letter.

Final submissions to the commission are to be made next month and the first set of its recommendations is to be published in the summer.

Robin Wendt, secretary of the Association of County Councils, accused the districts of campaigning on the basis of 'win at all costs'. 'We are not against change but it has to be in the interests of local areas,' he said. Leaders of county councils, which control 90 per cent of local government spending in the shire counties, say the districts are 'empire building'.

Letters, page 19