Letter: Why we benefit from single-tier local authorities - and why we don't

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was not one of the 164 district council chief executives who signed the letter to you advocating the benefits of unitary status, not because I did not support the principle, but because, like several of my colleagues, I did not think that the statement went far enough.

I am reinforced in this view by the entirely predictable responses (Letters, 22 April) from a county council chief executive (status quo rules OK), from a director of a professional institute (shroud-waving over government intentions, even though many of his members must already work for unitary authorities) and from a member of the public who, predictably, was confused as to which of the existing tiers of local government did what.

Where is the evidence to suggest that the existing county structure has protected education and social services from a government hell-bent on reform? Schools have opted out, post-16 education has, by and large, been removed from local authority control and in Humberside this week we have had an announcement of the closure of nine residential homes.

Why were several of the county councils fully in favour of unitary authorities until it became apparent that those authorities would not in the main be county-based? Does this explain the apparent conversion of the counties to the status quo?

Is it not time to move away from the vested interests, including those of some district councils, and recognise that there are benefits and opportunities in unitary authorities both for the new authorities and the people they serve? We already have 69 unitary authorities, called London boroughs and metropolitan districts, providing good integrated services for their public without any confusion over who provides those services, without duplication and without the need for two administrations.

The proposed unitary status reorganisation is the best that is on offer and considerably better than the status quo. The people of Hull and of the other major cities deserve and need nothing less than the best that there is available. Perhaps if we were all unitary authorities, we would be in a better position to challenge central government thinking, as opposed to fighting among ourselves. But that is the battle for tomorrow.

Yours faithfully,


Town Clerk and Chief Executive

Hull City Council


22 April