Unitary proposal may run out of time

CONTROVERSIAL plans to replace Devon s local authorities with a single super council may not happen.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to replace Devon's local authorities with a single 'super' council may not happen.

The Boundary Commission has conducted a lengthy consultation over plans to replace the district and county councils with a unitary authority, with the exception of Torbay and Plymouth.

But a decision was to have been made by this month and with MPs poised to go into their summer break and expected to go into full General Election-mode when they return, the process is running out of time.

A new letter to the chief executive of East Devon District Council Mark Williams told of further delays and MP Hugo Swire said: "The wording of this letter is interesting in that it now says the Secretary of State would 'expect' to take his statutory decision by mid October 2009 and that he 'would expect to reach his statutory decision during the autumn'.

"This is very vague in terms of timing and it is clear that the Government recognises the strength of feeling against any change to the existing system of local government in the county."

He added: "The letter states that any order would be laid before Parliament 'by around the end of the year,' and 'if approved by Parliament for the new unitary council to be established by April 1, 2011.'

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"I believe that the General election will come earlier than April 1 anyway, so the best thing the Government can do at this stage is abandon these unpopular plans and close the book on them once and for all and end the uncertainty.