Government letter to kickstart unitary bid
Posted: Wed, 09 Sep 2020 17:30
The Government will be asked to invite Leicestershire to put forward unitary plans, under new proposals published today (Wednesday).
The move would see Leicestershire County Council leader, Nick Rushton, write to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, helping to pave the way for an East Midlands devolution deal, boosting jobs, Covid-19 recovery and investment in the region.
Proposed next steps include refreshing the strategic business case which sets out the benefits of re-shaping local government in Leicestershire. Drawn up last year, the blueprint concluded that one, single unitary council – bringing together the eight county and district councils - offered the best opportunity to save money, reduce duplication and protect front line services.
Nick Rushton said: "Now is the time for change. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to simplify services, save over £30m a year and improve lives.
"Simply put, it's the right thing to do. The long-term financial situation facing councils is bleak. Unitary is the new normal – with the Government encouraging councils to bring forward proposals. And let's seize the chance to ramp up our approach to Covid-19 recovery.
"It also means we can put the East Midlands on the map. We're expecting the Government to make reorganisation a condition for devolution. And with leaders in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire also working towards reform, we can unlock the possibility of a regional devolution deal – the 6Cs model – establishing a mayoral combined authority for the East Midlands, bolstering our ability to attract much-needed Government investment and level up the region.
"Doing nothing isn't an option. Residents want easy access to effective, joined-up services – and be able to shape decisions that affect their communities. The current set up is bureaucratic, expensive and confusing – and we must put residents first and shake up the system. Exploring unitary puts us in control of our future and is our opportunity to move Leicestershire forward."
The proposals will be discussed by the council's cabinet next Friday (18 September) – watch the meeting online: www.leicestershire.gov.uk/webcast
- the business case will be updated to reflect the White Paper - and discussed by the cabinet, scrutiny commission and full council by the end of this year
- an independent research company will be brought on board to seek the views of stakeholders on the revised business case.
It's expected that the Government's White Paper on Devolution and Local Recovery – due to be published this autumn - will set out proposals for local government structural reform in England and the role which greater devolution will play in national recovery.
All proposals received will be evaluated by the Secretary of State in line with the Government's White Paper. Those that are acceptable will be put to public consultation before the final form of local government is decided.