Councillors at Warwick District Council have voted in favour of a historic merger with their counterparts in Stratford to create a new South Warwickshire District Council.
Following a two-hour meeting held at Warwick University’s Slate building, 23 councillors voted in favour of the proposal, 12 against, with five opting to abstain.
Stratford councillors also voted in favour and both councils will now make a request to the Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.
The votes of confidence come despite major opposition from the public. Of the 1,564 people who filled in questionnaires during the public consultation 57 per cent disagreed with the merger proposal.
Just over one third (37 per cent) agreed, while seven per cent neither agreed nor disagreed.
The push back was especially strong in Warwick district where 64 per cent of people disagreed with the plan and less than a third (30 per cent) agreed.
The Cabinets of both councils voted last week to recommend the merger to their full councils, both of which met last night to formally approve the proposals.
WDC leader Cllr Andrew Day (Con, Bishop’s Tachbrook) had urged members of the council to vote in favour.
He said: “If we are going to face the real challenges then we can’t sit on our hands – the bigger risk here is to do nothing.
“To be successful now in a fast-changing environment with a county council that has put very clearly on the table the absolute abolition of district and borough councils, we need to lead.
“We need to say what we want for our communities. We can’t wait for all the detail.
“We have enormous qualities and assets in common with Stratford. South Warwickshire is a gem and we should work together to polish it to make it an absolute beacon of democracy, of highly intelligent, bright businesses and enterprise.
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“As long as I am leader, I am determined that we will work on this project together and it is with no hesitation that I emphatically implore colleagues here to support the motion before us to become South Warwickshire District Council.”
Even though councillors were allowed a free vote, the majority of Conservative and Liberal Democrat members voted in favour while the Greens voted against and the majority of Labour members abstained.
Cllr Jacqui Grey (Con, Warwick Myton and Heathcote) was one of four Tories to vote against the proposal though and was among those calling for a delay in any political merger.
She said: “We’ve been told that if we don’t merge politically now, none of the operational savings will be delivered – in fact we face Armageddon in January.
“This is simply untrue and we shouldn’t feel forced into believing this is the case.
“It has always been possible to deliver the majority of the benefits without the political merger, effectively working in what would be a joint venture arrangement with Stratford District Council – a globally accepted and successful way of working.”
Cllr Ian Davison (Green, Leamington Brunswick) likened the potential merger to a shotgun wedding where divorce would be impossible.
Cllr Colin Quinney (Lab, Leamington Clarendon) admitted he was concerned that residents across the district remained uninformed about what the proposal would mean.
But Cllr Sidney Syson (Lib Dem, Leamington Milverton) questioned whether services could be shared without a full merger.
“No man, or woman, can serve two masters which is why, in my opinion, a political merger is the logical next step and now is the time to seize that initiative,” he said.
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