Changes to councils rejected in poll

MOST people do not want changes in the structure of their local councils, according to a MORI poll commissioned by the Local Government Commission for England published yesterday, writes Ngaio Crequer.

The poll of residents in Derbyshire, Cleveland and Durham - all areas in the first tranche of the commission's review of local government - shows strong support for the status quo.

The results will make it even more difficult for the commission - and the Government - to make changes, especially as ministers want council tax payers to foot the pounds 1.2bn bill for the transitional costs of creating new authorities in England, according to a leaked memorandum from the Department of Environment. This could mean an additional pounds 100 on council tax bills in any one year.

Yesterday the Association of County Councils called on the Government to justify the cost of any change. Robin Wendt, secretary of the association, said: 'The Secretary of State must now recognise and accept what the local people in these areas are clearly saying.'

David Curry, the local government minister, yesterday said he had not decided who would pay for the changes. Sir John Banham, the commission chairman, said: 'We will take this evidence fully into account when submitting our final recommendations to the Secretary of State in early November.'