Monday, 24 August 2015

Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils >>> Devon and Somerset to merge?

In Dorset, there has been considerable public debate over creating a 'unitary authority' - and so abolishing its District Councils:
Let's have talks on a unitary authority for Dorset (From Dorset Echo)
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... comparing the West Dorset relocation project: part three

With debate also focussing on how the authority conducts its business:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the West Dorset relocation project: both district councils' cabinet system is questioned

Bridport cartoonist launches local democracy movement (From Bridport and Lyme Regis News)

See more details at:

Dorset residents call meeting to discuss changing council structure - BBC News
Public First debate in Dorchester puts council structure under spotlight | Blackmore Vale Magazine
West Dorset council leaders slammed as Bridport residents back democracy campaign (From Bridport and Lyme Regis News)
Public First Group takes petition to change West Dorset District Council structure to Sherborne | Western Gazette
Public First Group petition half way to signature target | Western Gazette

This is very much within the wider context of debates over the direction of local and regional government:
South west moves on devolution | News | Local Government Chronicle
Futures Forum: "Cornwall is the first rural authority in the country to be given a devolution deal."
Futures Forum: An independent South-West?
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... revisted >>> the impact of devolution on the South-West

Much of this impetus has come from the business community:
Devolution study to determine how LEPs can 'shape the region's future' | Western Morning News

Meanwhile in Devon, there have been calls for more devolution:

Devon councils call for more devolved powers

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: August 22, 2015

COUNCIL leaders in Devon have agreed to work together on an expression of interest for more devolved powers from Westminster. It follows a summit of county, unitary and district council chiefs in Exeter, organised by county council leader, John Hart, Exeter City Council deputy leader, Rachel Sutton, and Plymouth City Council leader, Tudor Evans.

They hope to make a joint expression of interest with Somerset County Council and its five district authorities based around economic development, skills and job creation. It would be based on the boundaries of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership between businesses and Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay councils.

LEP chief executive Chris Garcia was at the meeting at Sandy Park with leaders from Devon’s eight district councils and Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver.

The meeting follows an earlier summit in Somerset this month with local authorities from all over the South West. Cornwall has already agreed a devolution deal with the Government and councils around Bristol are already working on their own bid.

Devon County Council leader John Hart said: “It’s important that we present a united front to the Government and the level of agreement has been very encouraging. I have always said that we can do things more effectively and more efficiently locally than being told what to do by London.

“The big themes we hope to focus on are on skills, economic growth and improving productivity,” said Mr Hart, “as well as infrastructure so we can ensure our road and rail network is more resilient than it has been in the past. Doing the very best for our older residents by coordinating health and social care and affordable homes for our young people are also key themes. It is interesting to note that the Chancellor, George Osborne, recognised the very real problems there are in the South West with housing for our young people – especially in rural areas – when he was in Devon on Thursday.”

Devon councils call for more devolved powers | Exeter Express and Echo
Devon Councils demand more devolved power from Government | North Devon Journal

This is pointing to a 'joint' administration between Devon and Somerset:
Devon and Somerset councillors agree joint devolution bid | Western Morning News

The East Devon Watch blog makes it clear what could be meant by this manoeuvre:
It’s official: Devon and Somerset councils plan to merge: whither EDDC’s new HQ? | East Devon Watch
Devon and Somerset county merger “not ruled out” by Somerset | East Devon Watch
That Devon/ Somerset devolution plan: more information | East Devon Watch

As the EDW notes, when unitary authority status was suggested in 2009, there was a lot of noise being made about the integrity of the East Devon District, vis-a-vis Exeter:

"We are happy to be a good neighbour and to collaborate with the city on an equal basis, but we would be very protective of our borders."

Unitary Devon and Somerset – hypocrisy at its finest | East Devon Watch
Exeter City Council wins unitary authority decision | This Is Exeter | Exeter Express and Echo

Whither the District Council's new headquarters?
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... a summary of the issues so far...

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