Councils to have choice of 'opting-in' for review: Government U-turn on reorganisation plan

COUNCILS are to be allowed to decide whether they want a review of their structures in a significant ministerial U-turn on local government reorganisation in England.

It would mean abandoning the wholesale review of shire councils in England, which was aimed at replacing two-tier (county and district) councils with all-purpose authorities. Any change in the review rules will be resisted fiercely by the district councils, and is likely to provoke battles in the courts.

John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, is this week expected to announce changes in the way the Local Government Commission for England should conduct its review.

He is expected to make the process voluntary, so that councils will only get a review if they 'opt-in'. He is also likely to impose a 'hurdle' - insisting that requests for review will have to be backed by councils representing 50 per cent of the area's population.

The expected changes are fraught with legal difficulty. The Commission has completed the first tranche of the review, including draft proposals to abolish Avon, Cleveland and Humberside county councils, and in Derbyshire to replace the nine districts with two authorities.

Many of the proposals have been highly controversial. If the minister now changes the rules before the process is complete, he will be vulnerable to applications for judicial review from aggrieved councils in this first tranche.

The district councils see the proposed change as a way of substantially stopping the review, without the Government having to say so. Lady Elizabeth Anson, chairman of the Association of District Councils said last night: 'I am very alarmed at this idea of opting in. To go for an 'opting-in' system with hurdles would be a weak compromise from the Government given its firm commitment to the review. It is ill-advised to, in effect, give councils a veto over others' aspirations. Such a system could be even more divisive for local government than the present proposals,' she said.

Jack Straw, the Labour environment spokeman, has told Mr Gummer that his party would strongly oppose any 'political tampering' with the review. In a letter to the minister he said Labour was 'wholly opposed to the abandonment of the review process, or to the imposition, at this stage well into the review, of some kind of 'opting-in' process.

'This could lead to quite unnecessary, and often unproductive local dissent, and to an extraordinary mish-mash of arrangements based on no clear principles but on the accident of whether particular counties happened to apply and then meet any opting-in criteria.'

He added: 'An effective refusal to allow for a review in certain areas (those which failed to meet opting-in criteria) would also open the Government to charges of partisanship, especially given the clear decision of your colleagues, the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales, to review local government in the whole of those countries.'

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Assessor

£26000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: SAP Assessor Job T...

Year 6 Teacher needed for 1 Term- Worthing!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Year 6 larger then life teach...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: SEN Jobs Available Devon

Infrastructure Lead, (Trading, VCE, Converged, Hyper V)

£600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering