Letter: Unitary councils: power to central government, loss of the citizen's role and a fight for jobs

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The Independent Online
Sir: I have read with interest the correspondence, for the most part from officers or elected representatives, about the desirability of unitary councils.

I am not aware of any benefits to ratepayers of the 1974 reorganisation; certainly there were none in this town in terms of improved services. It is not, also, apparent that any benefits will accrue to council tax payers from the proposed unitary authorities. The much publicised 'confusion' about who supplies what between district and county is more apparent than real and of little concern to most people. What is certain is that any reorganisation will cost us a great deal of money, with any long-term savings merely speculative.

The advocate of unitary authorities who suggested that the elimination of two tiers of local government would lead to authorities that were more united and better able to stand up to central government is nave in the extreme. Matters with which most unitary authorities would be too small to deal on their own - strategic planning, transport, waste disposal and where the burden of new housing is to fall - are fertile ground for inter-authority quarrelling, which would have to be resolved by central government. Indeed, the documentation prepared by the Association of District Councils suggests that such matters would need to be dealt with by consortiums of authorities approved by, or set up by, central government. So much for independence.

It is difficult not to be cynical about the work of the Local Government Commission, yet another expense for taxpayers. Central government has shown every intention of rejecting its recommendations if they do not fit the Government's preconceived ideas, regardless of whether the recommendations have the support of local people or not. Perhaps, of course, the exercise has nothing to do with suiting local needs but is merely about power; putting more power to the centre in this most centrally and secretively governed of all democracies.

Yours faithfully,




26 April