Debate on future shape of councils in Warwickshire

First published in News

MEMBERS of Warwickshire County Council are due to debate whether the council should become a unitary authority, with one new council replacing the current three borough councils, and two district councils including Stratford District Council, as well as the county council itself.

The debate, which is taking place on Tuesday, February 25 in Shire Hall in Warwick, will be open to the public, and is considering the issue as a way of helping to save money.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “Over the next four years the county council has to save £92m. When we consulted with the public on the proposals for our budget savings, a number of respondents indicated that we should be considering unitary local government to protect services.

“There are 545,000 residents, more than £1billion in funding and we have 272 councillor roles across six councils representing us.

There have already been discussions with the leaders of the three main political parties in the county council.”

“We have a significant role to play in delivering essential local services for the people of Warwickshire and should do so in the most effective and efficient way.

“The intention is to start an open and inclusive debate which will have at its core the interests of our citizens, and what makes sense to them, and the long term viability of local government in Warwickshire.

“Local government has significant savings to make and we expect that the public sector will be the subject of further austerity measures beyond 2018.

“We therefore believe that unitary local government merits further exploration in the interests of Warwickshire residents. We feel that this is the start of a crucial conversation which would benefit from the widest possible engagement and should be embraced as early on as possible.”

The change to a unitary council could mean a reduction in Council Tax of £30 a year for the average (Band D) household, with the current six councils, Warwickshire County Council, North Warwickshire Borough Council, Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, Rugby Borough Council, Stratford District Council, and Warwick District Council reducing to only one or two delivering all services.

If the changes went ahead the number of councillors representing people in the county would reduce from more than 250 to less than 100, and it’s hoped that less would be spent overall on administration and the delivery of services leading to an estimated saving of either £12million per year, if the change is made to two councils, or £17million per year under one council. Over four years that figure would potentially generate enough in savings to protect services currently under threat.

For more information on the public debate, visit warwickshire.gov.uk.

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