Letter: County councils too remote from the people

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your article ('Ministers decide to wipe out county councils', 22 November) and subsequent correspondence on the future of county councils has shown that my own county of Hampshire is not alone in its desperate struggle on the way to the gallows.

The Earl of Malmesbury refers (Letters, 25 November) to letters in Hampshire papers supporting the status quo of two-tier councils, but a survey of 1,038 residents in east Hampshire last February showed that 48 per cent of residents want a unitary authority, against 27 per cent who are content to continue receiving services from two councils.

On the assumption that there would be a unitary authority, 71 per cent of residents said they would want it to be local and not based on the county council. More recent research shows that the case for local unitary local government in Hampshire is gaining increasing support. A questionnaire to every household in east Hampshire produced more than 3,000 replies; by nine to one they preferred smaller, all-purpose local authorities to the status quo.

The most expensive way of delivering local services is the present mixture of county and district councils. Almost any changes that reduce the number of authorities would produce savings; it is a question of how long to recover the transition costs. Changing to between five and eight unitary authorities, as proposed by the Hampshire Branch of the Association of District Councils, would save pounds 27m- pounds 36m a year, the costs of change being recovered from savings within 27 months. Thereafter, there would be an annual 'profit'.

Yours sincerely,

JOHN PALMER

District Councillor

East Hampshire District Council

Petersfield,

Hampshire

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