Unitary decision: MP Hugo Swire’s response

TORY MP for East Devon Hugo Swire has expressed his disappointment over the Government s decision to give Exeter the green light to form a unitary authority, saying it is inconceivable .

TORY MP for East Devon Hugo Swire has expressed his disappointment over the Government's decision to give Exeter the green light to form a unitary authority, saying it is "inconceivable".

He claimed the decision is "political" and a financial mistake.

Mr Swire told the Midweek Herald: "Exeter is a fundamental part of Devon without which neither can function effectively. It is inconceivable to me why the Secretary of State would have come to this decision when his predecessor, Hazel Blears MP, requested the Boundary Committee to provide new advice as she decreed a unitary Government in Exeter not financially viable.

"Indeed, even the leader of the Devon Labour Group, Cllr Saxon Spence, feels this is a financial mistake, as she pointed out during a Devon County Council Cabinet meeting on January 13.

"Regarding the Exeter proposal... I have made it clear it would require considerable financial support. I would not like to see the setting up of an authority without the capacity to deliver services, and I do think that there would need considerable financial underpinning...Times are not, perhaps, too promising."

Mr Swire added: "The economic picture has changed enormously since Exeter originally submitted their unitary bid and with the current economic climate and squeeze on spending, now is not the time to be taking economic risks, with decisions based on outdated and now inaccurate figures. Pressing ahead with any unitary reorganisation in the current climate is madness.

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"This protracted and costly rigmarole has diverted a huge amount of time, effort and resources from councils' normal operations and has created prolonged uncertainty for the public and local government workers across Devon. This legislation is now being rushed through in the run-up to the General Election, in a move not designed to benefit the people of Exeter. This is simply cynical political engineering on the part of the Government designed to shore up flagging support for Ben Bradshaw.

"Devon County Council has indicated that they will be now be starting proceedings to launch a judicial review in order to challenge this decision and I will be demanding a full inquiry into the handling of this matter going back to 2006 while the Conservatives have already said they will repeal this legislation if they get into Government at the next General Election. I hope that the civil servants in the department will not waste any time or taxpayers money on any of this.

"The best situation for Devon is to be allowed to retain the status quo so that councils can continue to work together to improve the overall service provision for residents and deliver effective cost savings. Let the Government play their political games elsewhere

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