'Super council' plans runing out of time

CONTROVERSIAL plans to create a single 'super council' for the whole of Devon are running out of time.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to create a single 'super council' for the whole of Devon are running out of time.Appeal court judges ruled this week the Boundary Committee had made legal errors with plans to create a single council to run the whole county, save Plymouth and Torbay - or a separate unitary council centred on Exmouth and Exeter.And, while they stopped short of ordering the committee to start again, with original December and February deadlines to report back missed, the new ruling means it is unlikely a July deadline will be met either.With the likelihood of a general election next spring, the summer commons recess this year and no indication whether a possible new Conservative Government would continue the local government review, the whole process could come to nothing.If the Boundary Committee's plans become law, East Devon would be one of the eight district councils in Devon to be scrapped - but a "vindicated" East Devon District Council heard top judges support most of its grounds for appeal against a previous judicial review.EDDC argued the process did not allow any other option other than unitary proposals - and that the status quo was not even on the table.Judge Sir Anthony May said the Boundary Committee had promoted its plans "on the mistaken legal basis that it was only open to them to consult upon and recommend a single proposal".He added last autumn's consultation process with councils on whether the plans were cost effective were not adequate "because it did not give those consulted adequate time to consider and make representations".A legal team representing the affected councils tried to persuade Sir Anthony, Lord Justice Dyson and Lord Justice Richards to rule that the Boundary Commission should start from scratch - because the plans were so "fractured" and "only a fresh start can produce a lawful outcome".But, despite the pleas, they refused, rejecting the claims the plans were so "broken" the committee had to go back to the drawing board.But, they said, the Boundary Committee must present the status quo - of a system of local governance of district and county councils - as an option, and should carry out more consultations on cost. Councillor Sara Randall Johnson, the leader of EDDC, said: "This judgement is a further vindication of our decision to challenge the Boundary Committee because we felt they were not handling this important process in the right way."We happen to believe that local government in Devon is not broken and doesn't need fixing. "But, if the Government is hell-bent on destroying it, we will do our damnedest to ensure they come up with the best possible alternative - and do it fairly."But a spokesman for the Boundary Committee said: "We're pleased that both the High Court and the Court of Appeal have upheld our process and allowed it to continue. "Our focus now must be on moving as swiftly as possible for the benefit of residents in Devon...

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