National and Devolved Politics

20.11.17

Counties and districts clash over suggestion to scrap two-tier authorities

A report suggesting that scrapping district councils could save £2.9bn a year has prompted anger from the District Councils Network (DCN).

Research, carried out by independent think-tank ResPublica, has suggested that a switch away from two-tier authorities to single unitary bodies could be a more efficient use of funds.

Devolution would also save money across councils, the report said, with a total of £11.7bn predicted to be gained from integrating public services into local responsibilities.

County councils would be central to the plans offered by the study, with many of the unified authorities coming from the reorganisation of county systems. Due to this, the report suggests councils should begin the devolution process by offering similar powers to those being made available in the city-regions.

Although it advocated for integration of the two sets of services – claiming it could enable additional growth of up to £31bn over the next five years – ResPublica said reorganisation “should not mean the supremacy of one form of government over another”.

However, Cllr John Fuller, chairman of the DCN, said the report focused on a “sterile and tiresome debate” without recognising the needs of local people.

“Districts have long demonstrated their appetite for increased devolution and the transformation of local government in localities,” he added.

“The recent ‘minded to’ announcement in relation to recent transformation proposals this month demonstrates the government’s support for locally-led transformation.

“The initial criteria set out to measure these proposals, in particular the emphasis on local support and credible geographies, are vital principles.

“These principles reflect the DCN’s long held position that local government transformation should be driven by bottom up solutions, that drive growth and improve people’s lives, whilst operating at a functional economic geography that makes sense to residents and which transforms service delivery.”

Counties welcome report

With heavy focus on the power of counties within ResPublica’s proposed new system, Cllr Paul Carter, chairman of the County Councils Network (CCN), applauded the report and said this kind of devolution was shown to benefit the country despite recent fears over Brexit and public services.

He commented: “As ResPublica argues, reformed two-tier structures could provide the pathway to empower counties. These ‘strategic authorities’ would be led by the county council, using their scale over a county geography to make decisions on growth, housing, planning, plus rate-setting abilities.

“For those who wish to pursue more radical reform, this report clearly illustrates the huge economic and public service benefits of streamlining complex local government structures into singular county unitary authorities.

“Both models will enable counties to rise to challenges both nationally and locally; saving billions through public sector savings and allowing local areas to grow their economies and deliver the government’s housing ambitions.”

Currently, there are 27 county councils in England that are part of two-tier structures, under the plans of today’s report, they would all become singular unitary authorities.

Phillip Blond, director of ResPublica, said: “The needless confusion that frustrates the ambitions of business and government alike in our county areas must end now.

“With Brexit on the horizon and our city-regions already benefitting from devolution, we can’t afford the waste and complication that the current system creates. Single councils at the county scale are the future and we call on the government to move rapidly to encourage them.”

Top image: Dave Bevis

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here.

Comments

Barry   20/11/2017 at 21:11

Here we go again !!! People want "local" to mean local not some ivory tower 40 or 50 miles down the road

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Protesters gather as councillors meet to discuss mass children’s centre closures

15/10/2018Protesters gather as councillors meet to discuss mass children’s centre closures

Demonstrators and parents have gathered outside County Hall in Norwich to protest against planned mass children’s centre closures as Norfol... more >
'Pioneer' Wigan Council CEO announces retirement

15/10/2018'Pioneer' Wigan Council CEO announces retirement

The chief executive of Wigan Council Donna Hall CBE has announced her retirement, after winning national acclaim for forging a new model of local... more >
Study shows English councils suffering ‘territorial injustice’ from government spending cuts

15/10/2018Study shows English councils suffering ‘territorial injustice’ from government spending cuts

 Research from Cambridge University has revealed that English councils have been hit twice as hard as councils in Scotland and Wales by spen... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >
500 jobs could go as city council eyes 5% tax hike to tackle £28m deficit

11/10/2018500 jobs could go as city council eyes 5% tax hike to tackle £28m deficit

Up to 500 jobs are at risk at Wolverhampton and residents face a council tax rise of 4.99% in what has been described as “the most significant financial challenge the council has ever faced... more >
Government removes intervention in Tower Hamlets LBC

05/10/2018Government removes intervention in Tower Hamlets LBC

James Brokenshire has formally ended the government’s intervention in Tower Hamlets London Borough Council following “significant improvements” in a recent review. The Mini... more >

the raven's daily blog

What cities should become

15/10/2018What cities should become

Tom Leaver, project manager at Future Cities Catapult, examines the rationale behind the creation of the City Data Sharing Toolkit, and explores how this is driving a seismic shift in how cities evolve into our data-rich future. We’re used to big-screen sci-fi future cities being dystopian monoliths to everything wrong with the worl... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Inspiring leadership in social value

15/10/2018Inspiring leadership in social value

We have learned a lot since the last National Social Value Conference, with many organisations both in the public and private sectors now embeddi... more >
Is fair funding possible, or pie in the sky?

15/10/2018Is fair funding possible, or pie in the sky?

David Phillips, associate director at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, discusses the current health of local government finance, and how a bette... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >
The Convention of the North

15/10/2018The Convention of the North

Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool City Region, discusses the findings of the very first Convention of the North, which was held in Newcastle... more >

interviews

Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >
Michael King: Time for Ombudsman reform

06/08/2018Michael King: Time for Ombudsman reform

Michael King first joined the Local Government Ombudsman service back in 2004 as deputy ombudsman. At the start of 2017, he was appointed as the ... more >
Helping a city understand itself

06/08/2018Helping a city understand itself

SPONSORED INTERVIEW The urban landscape is changing. How can local authorities keep up with citizen behaviour? Stephen Leece, managing directo... more >
Modern policing: the future is bright

06/08/2018Modern policing: the future is bright

SPONSORED INTERVIEW The public sector, and policing in particular, has often been criticised as being slow to adapt to change. But now, says L... more >

public sector focus

View all News