New Councils 'Not County Takeovers' Government Defends Unitary Plans

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Byline: By William Green

THE Government yesterday insisted new unitary councils in Durham and Northumberland were not county "takeovers", as it outlined how they could be established.

The pledge came as proposals about how to axe existing district councils and move to a single overarching authority in each area within two years were published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

A departmental consultation paper suggested county councils could become "transitional" authorities because it would be less confusing and avoid unnecessary work in setting up completely new councils.

The document said creation of a new council would legally require the current one to be scrapped and replaced with a body with identical borders, which would act as a shadow authority until it assumed full power.

County councils could then become the "new" unitary authorities, which the DCLG said would have new councilors and senior officers. They would have to set up joint committees with district councillors to carry out functions linked to reorganisation.

And elections could be held next May with existing councillors stepping down and subsequent polls in 2013 - although that would rule out a proper electoral review.

Another options is for elections in May 2009 and in 2013, allowing existing councillors to take part in the transition but not providing a fresh mandate before the new structures were in place. …