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Think tank recommends Scottish council mergers

The number of local authorities in Scotland should be reduced from 32 to just 19, Reform Scotland has proposed, enabling decentralisation of powers from Holyrood to these bigger authorities.

Other recommendations include transferring responsibility from health and police boards to the 19 local authorities, which would be formed through a series of mergers of smaller authorities

The Scottish Government has suggested that such “wholesale structural reform” is off the table, butReformScotland says the changes would make services more engaging and responsive to local needs and priorities, and service delivery more accountable and transparent.

Ben Thomson, Reform Scotland chairman, said: “It is clear from the recent disappointing local election turnout that we have to take action against the erosion of local democracy inScotland.

“This is not a party-political issue, and we hope to start a vital debate in this country which will result in a solution being found which empowers our councils, and which engages people at election-time.

“It is certainly the case that there is too much confusion caused by the inconsistent number of councils, police boards and health boards, and, by making these boundaries the same and making local authorities more responsible for these essential services, we will take a big step in the right direction.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our approach to reformingScotland’s public services, following on from theChristie Commission’s recommendations, is about making sure that they are consistently well-designed and delivered to the right people by the right people – it does not rely on wholesale structural reform.

“Local authorities are already finding innovative ways of collaborating and improving frontline services to deliver the best outcomes for the people of Scotland.”

The new councils under the proposed structure would be:

Ayrshire (comprising East, North and South Ayrshire)

Dunbartonshire (comprising East andWest Dunbartonshire)

East and Midlothian (comprising East Lothian andMidlothian)

ForthValley(comprising Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, West Lothian andStirling)

Grampian (comprisingAberdeenCity, Aberdeenshire and Moray)

Lanarkshire (comprising North andSouth Lanarkshire)

Renfrewshire (comprisingEast Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire)

Tayside (comprisingDundeeand Angus)

Argyll and Bute,Perthand Kinross, Dumfries and Galloway,Edinburgh, Eilean Siar, Fife,Glasgow,Highland, Orkney, Shetland and Borders remain unchanged.

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