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Single Leicestershire supercouncil in the works as leader claims ‘the time has come’

The leader of a major Midlands county council has outlined plans to abolish the existing authorities in the area and create one major unitary body with direct links to towns and parish in the area.

Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton claimed his area was “simply losing out” to the power and influence of the nearby West Midlands Combined Authority and argued it was time to replace the current county council and seven district councils.

In its place, Rushton argued, a unitary council would save £30m a year, simplify and improve services — as well as boosting direct links to nearby communities, towns, and parishes.

“It’s important that the East Midlands is not overshadowed by the West Midlands. We are simply losing out,” Rushton said.

Rushton revealed that he has written to local government secretary James Brokenshire to discuss the plans for East Midlands.

“I believe the time has come to consider having a modern, progressive council for Leicestershire, to replace the county council and the seven district councils,” said Rushton.

Separately, the council leader said that he had been in discussions with Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and Lincolnshire authority decision-makers over planning, transport and investment as part of a new strategic alliance, adding the move was “vital” for Leicestershire’s economy.

‘Broken, bureaucratic, old-fashioned’

The leader went on to blast the “broken, bureaucratic, old-fashioned” two-tier local government system which currently takes money away from frontline services.

In his response to Cllr Rushton’s plans, leader of Melton Borough Council Cllr Joe Orson said: “These proposals are at an early stage and will be the subject of significant scrutiny and discussion to establish whether they should proceed. My first reaction is concern that this will make services more remote, take resources and focus away from Melton, and be a big distraction and a costly exercise.

“As a council we share the ambition to get the best for Leicestershire and the wider region and are always ready to explore ways to improve services and value for money to our residents, but are also very mindful of the potential challenges and issues any major reorganisation could create. For now it is important to reassure residents it is business as usual at Melton Borough Council.”

But the leader of Charnwood Borough Council, Cllr Jonathan Morgan, said a proposal to create a single unitary authority for the whole of Leicestershire is "unlikely to happen."

Cllr Morgan commented: “To be very clear, this proposal is unlikely to happen — it would require an Act of Parliament, and the government has publicly said that it won’t give parliamentary time for proposals, without substantive support from local MPs, district and county councils, and the public.

“There may be a strong case for reviewing the local government structure in the county, but any proposals need to have the backing of all those involved, following proper debate.

“Over the coming months, other, better supported options are likely to come forward and provide the same levels of savings, but with better local representation.”

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.

Top image: peteholyoak

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