Government in U-turn over council changes

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE NEW local authorities planned for England are likely to be smaller than intended as a result of criticisms made to ministers, Ngaio Crequer.

Wholesale changes to the rules governing the commission which is redrawing the map of local government are being drawn up.

The strength of opposition to many of the proposals made by the Commission for Local Government in England has caused ministers to think again. Civil servants have been instructed to come up with several different options for the way the commission operates. The most likely option is that the commission will only examine proposals for change if there is a clear local support for a new council structure.

The first hint of the U-turn came when David Curry, the minister for Local Government and Planning, addressed the annual Association of District Councils in Bournemouth. He said he was prepared to give new guidance to the commission if there was a 'clear view' from councils that change was necessary.

The commission has proposed the abolition of Avon, Humberside and Cleveland - all created in 1974. But the district councils have accused the commission of creating 'monster' authorities in Derbyshire and Yorkshire.

Sir John Banham, chairman of the commission, said he felt there was sufficient support for unitary or all-purpose councils to replace two-tier structures.