News

07.09.18

Leicestershire district leaders urge county council to halt ‘unreasonable’ merger proposals

Leaders of Leicestershire’s seven district councils have urged Leicestershire County Council’s proposals to merge the authorities into a unitary body to be dropped, labelling the plans “unreasonable.”

In a letter to Leicestershire County Council leader Cllr Nick Rushton, who threw his support behind the plans in June, leaders noted that it was “regrettable” that the district authorities were not shown details of the county’s proposals other than those which were outlined in a public report to the Cabinet on the 6 July.

The plans would replace the current two-tier structure of the county council and district councils and replace them with a singular unitary model, which, Cllr Rushton argued, would save the area £30m a year, simplify and improve services.

Although the district leaders said they were not opposed to looking at the question of reform in the country, and are considering all proposals, they noted they were “taken by surprise” about the announcement, a decision that was taken “without discussion” with any of the district councils, who will all be fundamentally affected.

“These are complex matters which must be based upon evidence; gathered from a number of sources and not produced in isolation,” the council leaders wrote.

“We do not see how it is possible to demonstrate that these proposals satisfy any of these requirements, including the demand for “a good deal of local support” unless the public and stakeholders, including all the authorities, are given a reasonable time for informed consideration. We are concerned that your current engagement proposals do not allow for this.”

The leaders noted that if Leicestershire CC continues with proposals they will be contacting communities’ secretary James Brokenshire that the merger details are unreasonable.

“In short, we are advised and believe that there is a strong argument to be made that the proposals from the county at present are unreasonable and unlikely to satisfy either the criteria set out in the legislation or the county council’s duty to act reasonably,” the letter wrote.

“We repeat that it is not the case that we are necessarily opposed to change, and it may be that unitary reorganisation is the eventual outcome. What we are concerned about is that this must be done properly, with all key stakeholders working together to fully assess the best option for Leicestershire.”

There are currently eight councils providing services across Leicestershire: Blaby District Council, Charnwood Borough Council, Harborough District Council, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, Melton Borough Council, North West Leicestershire District Council, Oadby and Wigston Borough Council and Leicestershire County Council. Leicester City Council covers a different area and wouldn’t be part of any proposals. 

The county council has saved £178m since 2010 and needs to reduce costs by another £50m over the next four years. It has a revenue budget of £350m per year, while the district councils have a collective revenue budget of £75m per year.

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Image credit: marcoscisetti

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