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: The battle for power being fought out in your columns between district and county chief executives ignores a fundamental point - that sub-county unitary councils will diminish the role of the citizen in local government.

First, voters will no longer have a direct input into policing, the fire service, strategic planning, probably education, and all cross- boundary issues. Is this a price worth paying for questionable assertions about accountability and lack of confusion over the crumbs that are left? How can there be less confusion when the lost tier will be replaced by joint committees, joint boards, 'working arrangements', quangos, buying-in of services, etc?

Second, dual responsibility under the present structure, whatever its faults, has an important benefit for local citizens. It provides the checks and balances that are an essential feature of any robust system of democratic government. A voter who objects to a decision of one tier can seek redress by appealing to the other. It is my experience that the clash which this frequently engenders almost always improves the outcome because it forces the issue to be debated properly. This is particularly important where majority rule allows decisions to be taken in back rooms without genuine open debate.

This is surely worth a little


Yours faithfully,



25 April

The writer is leader of the Liberal Democrats on Leicestershire County Council.