Magazine article Public Finance

Councils Dismayed at Talk of More Town Hall Reorganisation

Magazine article Public Finance

Councils Dismayed at Talk of More Town Hall Reorganisation

Article excerpt

Ministers are considering a reorganisation of local government in England but no firm decision has yet been taken to introduce unitary authorities, it was confirmed this week.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister told Public Finance that the ten-year strategy for local government would consider structures for the future.

A series of consultation papers, addressing community leadership, neighbourhood renewal, performance measurement and the future of local services, will be published this year. These will float the possibility of a structural shake-up paving the way for unitary government.

But a spokeswoman for the UDPM denied that ministers had already decided to press ahead with reorganisation, which would be bitterly resisted by town hall leaders.

'Anything that looks to the future will inevitably consider structural issues,' she said. 'But the documents are not going to say, "we're scrapping such-and-such a council".'

She went on: 'We're not saying we're going to keep the status quo and just tinker around the edges. But nor are we going to set out a dramatic new vision for local government. This is more a discussion of the possible ways forward.'

The Treasury's Gershon review, which has identified billions of pounds in potential efficiency savings, is spurring the government on by advocating that councils join up back-office functions and organise themselves into procurement consortiums.

Ministers are thought to favour moving away from the two-tier system of district and county authorities that exists in many rural areas, towards the creation of fewer, but bigger, councils. …

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