Counties advance their case

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Indy Politics
IF ENGLAND wants unitary local government then county councils are the 'sitting tenants', Robin Wendt, secretary of the Association of County Councils, said yesterday, writes Ngaio Crequer.

He said that with counties controlling nearly 90 per cent of spending in the shires, they are already the 'next best thing to unitary authorities'.

He told a meeting of council leaders in London that 'all sides agree that with county unitary authorities, local government running costs can be cut by 23 per cent by eliminating expensive district bureaucracies: a much better way of saving the taxpayer's money than cutting unemployment or invalidity benefit'.

The Local Government Commission is considering new unitary authorities to replace the two-tier system of district and county councils.

'The review is not and never has been about the future of district councils. Their case for a general system of unitary districts has been roundly dismissed as it was always going to be. They have utterly failed with the commission.'

This was why it was being suggested that districts merge with counties. 'There is little reason to suppose that the districts will cut any more ice with the commission in pairs than they have done singly,' Mr Wendt said. 'We should have nothing to do with the murky, muddled, middle ground of merged districts.'

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