Abandon unitary bid, chief pleads

PUBLISHED: 17:00 23 October 2008 | UPDATED: 09:52 10 June 2010

THE LATEST downturn in the economy is yet another reason why the Government should - and might - scrap the idea of reorganising local government in Devon and work to improve the present two-tier structure, East Devon District Council's leader said this we

THE LATEST downturn in the economy is yet another reason why the Government should - and might - scrap the idea of reorganising local government in Devon and work to improve the present two-tier structure, East Devon District Council's leader said this week."The proposals simply won't work," said Councillor Sara Randall Johnson, "and, with all the problems and uncertainties that the country and the people are facing at present, the Government should abandon the unitary idea right now."What we do know is that this process will cost the council tax payer £93 million. 'Future' savings are predicted - but not guaranteed. Experience suggests they won't be forthcoming. At a time when we should be cutting our costs, spending £93 million is sheer folly."Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears fuelled rumours that the review might be scrapped when she told council chief executives at a recent conference in Belfast that all options were on the table and refused to rule out cancelling the current round of reorganisations.Said a council spokesman: "The Department of Communities and Local Government is seen, along with the Ministry of Defence, as a prime target to make cuts after more than 100 councils saw millions of pounds frozen in collapsed Icelandic banks."This will only exacerbate other financial considerations caused by the downturn in the economy, such as the need to top up pension funds hit by reduced share values, less income from business rates, and the likely impact of fewer shopping journeys on car park revenue, for example."Suggesting that Communities Secretary Hazel Blears would be far better off retaining the two-tier system, Miss Randall Johnson added: "The Government have got enough on their plate already, without taking Devon into a chaotic and expensive local government reorganisation that will cause a great deal of hassle for a lot of people, with no visible gain. They might as well admit it now - the game's up!"In the meantime, the deadline for public comments has passed and Boundary Committee chairman Max Caller has received thousands of East Devon responses, most of them against the single Devon unitary council, said the EDDC spokesman.

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