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Nine cities 'need greater powers'


Nine more English towns and cities deserve powerful local councils and independence from their local county councils, the Government's Local Government Commission recommended yesterday.

The nine should cover functions such as education and social services, at present run by the counties in shire England, and take responsibility for the full range of local government services, the commission told the Environment Secretary, John Gummer.

The district councils of Blackburn, Blackpool, Halton (better known as Runcorn and Widnes), Peterborough, Thurrock, Warrington and the Wrekin (Telford new town) ought to have their own all- purpose councils. So should the north Kent councils of Dartford and Gravesham. However, they should be merged into one large authority.

Mr Gummer has to decide whether to accept the proposals and then get the final version approved by Parliament.

That will wrap up a controversial process of deciding a new structure for local government outside of England's seven biggest conurbations, which has lasted more than three years.

The commission's chairman, Sir David Cooksey, and the chief executive, Dr Bob Chilton, yesterday criticised an earlier decision to let tiny Rutland split off from Leicestershire and have its own all-purpose council. They felt its population of 33,000 was too small.

Mr Gummer has also ordered that 38 district councils scattered through England should become more powerful unitary authorities, splitting off from their counties.

The commission decided there is not a case for historic cities like Exeter and Norwich to have unitary councils, much to the anger of local citizens.