THE future of Stratford District Council hangs in the balance as plans for a massive shake-up in the way local government works in Warwickshire were agreed to be explored further.

During a three-hour open debate held on February 25, the possibility of whether Warwickshire County Council could become a unitary authority, thereby replacing current district and borough councils and taking over responsibilities for services such as rubbish collection, council housing and planning, was discussed by all 62 members of the county council.

Local authorities across the country have had to face up to the prospect of damaging cuts, and it has been argued by some that the change in organisation could save taxpayers in the county £50 million a year.

County councillor Mike Gittus, who is also a part of Alcester Town Council, spoke during the debate and outlined the importance of parish and town councils. "Parish councillors have an active interest and concern for their local community and they represent local people and work in partnership with them," he said.

"They provide many local services and community facilities from graveyards to sports pavilions and are often best placed for involving their local communities in how money is spent.. I have oft' been heard to say: 'Give me £100 to spend locally and I will provide you with £500 worth of work, undertaken by a local person working locally and with local accountability.'"

The model he favours is one with a single principle authority serving the residents of Warwickshire with an increase in service responsibilities in the parish and town council areas.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Councillor Izzi Seccombe, leader of Warwickshire County Council, explained: “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."

The council will now engage with members of the public, other public sector bodies, businesses, the voluntary sector and Central Government to develop ideas around this way of working.