MP calls for sacking of review chairman: Local government commission chief 'making wrong decisions'

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The Independent Online
THE CHAIRMAN of the parliamentary select committee on the environment last night demanded the resignation of Sir John Banham, who is chairing the review of local government in England.

Robert Jones, Tory MP for Hertfordshire West, said: 'My personal view is that he should go. He is making the wrong decisions, and he is the wrong person and he should go.'

He accused Sir John, chairman of the Local Government Commission for England, of being a 'prima donna', responsible for 'ridiculous' decisions.

The commission is reviewing the two-tier structure of district and county councils. In October, Sir John gave evidence to the parliamentary select committee. The committee, which is still hearing evidence about the review, has decided to publish minutes of evidence containing verbatim records of the questioning of Sir John, and also of David Curry, the local government minister.

Mr Jones said that the committee wanted to place on record 'an exchange between the committee and those with primary responsibility for the conduct of the review, in order to clear the air and inform the ongoing debate. We are publishing the minutes of evidence without further comment; the frank exchanges speak for themselves'.

But last night, Mr Jones went further. He said that at the select committee hearing, in October: 'Sir John Banham and Mr (Martin) Easteal (chief executive) were all over the place, contradicting each other and themselves and rubbishing the Government.' Mr Jones criticised Sir John's proposals for Derbyshire and Durham, which he said were inconsistent with each other, and added: 'I am quite clear that man has to go. I do not think we will get a clear approach . . . so long as John Banham is in the job.'

Sir John said last night: 'Unless I am invited to stand down by ministers, which I have not been, I intend to see this through until the end of next year. It is a very difficult job, with a lot of vested interests, and a great deal of prejudice. We have interviewed 25,000 people, and heard from 155,000 people directly.'

The commission was listening to local people, he said.

Meanwhile, two councils have made separate moves to ask the High Court to intervene in the review. The decisions to involve the courts will hold up the local government review.

Both Lancashire and Derbyshire county councils argue that the Government has exceeded its powers by changing its guidance to the commission once it had started its work.