Changes to local government explored
In many parts of England there is one (unitary) tier of local government providing all the local services for that area. In most parts of the country, including Surrey, there are two tiers of local government with the county council (responsible for education, social care, highways, etc) and a district, borough or city council (responsible for rubbish and recycling collections, housing, parks, licencing, environmental health, etc).
In September the Government will publish a white paper on regional devolution and local recovery.
The Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Simon Clarke MP, stated earlier this month that this would include the government’s transformative plan “…with many more elected mayors and more unitary councils”. The plans have been described as possibly the biggest local government shake-up since 1974.
Surrey County Council has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, proposing a single Surrey wide council serving 1.2million people.
In a joint letter this week, the Surrey boroughs and districts joined together to highlight their concerns to the Secretary of State about the county council’s ambition. They have requested that government ministers keep an open mind on emerging proposals to change how local government works in the county. Borough and district leaders say that only by hearing all opinions can the wellbeing of residents be safeguarded.
The councillors, representing every part of Surrey, called upon Robert Jenrick to give them a fair hearing if the county council is asked to submit a more detailed proposal.
Councillor Eber Kington, Chairman Strategy & Resources Committee said “The county council bid to take on responsibility for all services for Surrey’s 1.2 million residents, means that as Epsom and Ewell local councillors we need to work urgently with other Surrey District and Borough councillors to a set out the case for the retention of local democracy and locally accountable decision making.
“It is difficult to understand why the Government is in such a rush to re-organise local government at time when all councils are focusing on their key role in supporting the COVID-19 recovery.
“Our focus will be on ensuring that any changes to local government in Surrey continue to provide for local democratic accountability, decision making at the lowest level commensurate with effective delivery, efficient and cost effective service delivery, and local councils with a clear understanding of their people and place”.