Council guidelines revised

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SIR JOHN BANHAM was yesterday given revised guidance by John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, for his review of local government. He was told to put the emphasis on producing unitary authorities, writes Colin Brown.

However, in a compromise move, Sir John was asked to ensure the new single-tier authorities should be neither too remote nor too small.

The advice follows a meeting last week when the chairman of the Local Government Commission was believed to be on the verge of resigning in protest about Government interference.

Ministers privately confirmed that if Sir John had offered to resign, it would have been accepted. 'He is not exactly the flavour of the week,' one said.

The revised guidance was seen as an attempt to patch over the tensions and to meet Sir John's demands for more flexibility in interpreting the Government's wishes. However, Mr Gummer is determined to ensure that most new authorities are unitary bodies.

Mr Gummer approved the first of the large-scale unitary authorities yesterday by approving a single-tier authority for the Isle of Wight. Elections will take place in 1995.