Legal threat to boundary plan

PUBLISHED: 15:09 22 August 2008 | UPDATED: 09:32 10 June 2010

FRIDAY, AUGUST 22: A LEGAL challenge could be mounted against proposals to abolish East Devon District Council and replace it with a 'super council' - a move that could cost taxpayers thousands of pounds. A district council spokesman confirmed they are seriously considerin

A LEGAL challenge could be mounted against proposals to abolish East Devon District Council and replace it with a 'super council' - a move that could cost taxpayers thousands of pounds. A district council spokesman confirmed they are seriously considering a judicial review that could end up in the High Court, costing 'a five-figure sum'.The Boundary Committee is consulting on draft proposals to scrap all eight of Devon's district councils and create a gigantic single authority, responsible for running services currently delivered by county and district councils.EDDC is writing to Archie Gall, Director of the Boundary Committee, and to Hazel Blears, Secretary of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government.Specifically, district lawyers will argue that Ms Blear's request for a unitary proposal was not legal, that the proposals do not address affordability - one of the five key criteria referred to in Exeter's failed bid for self determination last year - and their refusal to consider a 'two-tier' option."If the response is not acceptable to the Council, it can apply to a judge in the High Court, who would then consider the challenge and make a judgement," said the council spokesman. "This process involves barristers and, if the court hearing is lengthy, the cost could run to a five-figure sum."Ironically EDDC leader Councillor Sara Randall Johnson said they were encouraging residents to look at the proposals, what they would mean and what it could cost: "It's one thing to have a new system of local government foisted on us if all the experts feel it is better in every way than the current arrangement. "But we believe the proposal and the poorly-detailed evidence supporting it are fundamentally flawed.""The idea of a single council running Devon, an area larger than Greater London and chunks of its neighbouring counties, seems to us absurd. Bigger does not mean more efficient - it means more remote and less democratic. "The proposed judicial review is not a decision we have taken lightly. We know that it can be an expensive exercise, but we have to use all means at our disposal to stop this ridiculous idea being adopted and in the long run that will ensure better value services for everyone in East Devon. We are not alone in our concerns. Many other Devon districts share our worries and councils in Norfolk and Suffolk are mounting a legal challenge to similar proposals." Exeter City Council's legal bid to overturn the Government's decision not to allow the council to go it alone last year cost upwards of £800,000.

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