Exeter unitary backed

PEERS have backed a draft law that could lead to Exeter seceding from county control, leaving Exmouth as Devon s largest community run by county hall.

PEERS have backed a draft law that could lead to Exeter seceding from county control, leaving Exmouth as Devon's largest community run by county hall.

The House of Lords this week voted to accept the draft Orders for the creation of an Exeter Unitary.

As expected, the Lord's saw fit not to break with convention and reject the draft Orders outright.

However, in a highly unusual move, they backed a separate motion calling on the Secretary of State to urgently reconsider.

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The motions of "regret" tabled by the independent and highly respected ex-High Court judge Baroness Butler-Sloss called on the Government to withdraw the Exeter and Norwich plans and carry out further consultation.

The motion made it clear that the plan for Exeter "does not comply with the Government's published criteria with respect to affordability" and had been laid before Parliament without evidence that it was likely to achieve the Government's declared policy objective.

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In the case of Norwich, the Government was defeated by 169 votes to 110. Such was the scale of the opposition it was not even necessary to vote on the Exeter proposals.

This, say opponents, reinforces the criticisms of the Government's handling of the process and the serious flaws in the process.

The Secretary of State must now decide whether to follow Parliamentary good practice or ignore the Lord's advice and press ahead with the signing of the Orders.

Devon and Norfolk County Councils will continue their legal challenge in the High Court on April 28 and 29.

Both Councils believe their case is significantly strengthened by the Government's heavy defeat in the Lord's and in particular the decision not to contest the motion on the Exeter Order.

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