Magazine article Public Finance

Switch to Unitary Councils Could Save Up to £2.9Bn

Magazine article Public Finance

Switch to Unitary Councils Could Save Up to £2.9Bn

Article excerpt

Creating 27 unitary councils across England could save almost £2.9bn, an independent analysis of local government reorganisation carried out for the County Councils Network (CCN) has found.

The report, by consultants EY, examined six single and two-tier governance options for county and district authorities, using existing county boundaries.

Using national data, EY found setting up unitaries within existing county boundaries could save between £2.37bn and £2.86bn over five years, with an average of up to £106m per county. The single unitary option has the shortest payback period, generating savings within two years and two months.

Another option was creating two unitary authorities per county, which would establish 54 councils. This would save between £1.17bn and £1.7bn in five years - around 59% of that through creating single authorities within existing boundaries.

A third approach would involve abolishing county and district authorities and creating three unitaries per county. However, the creation of 81 councils countrywide could have a net cost to the taxpayer of £33m over five years, although this could also save £526m, depending on how senior management and councillors were structured across the authorities.

The review also considered reforming the two-tier system through merging districts to reduce the average number in a county area from 7. …

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