Plans to create a ‘super council’ in Warwickshire have been slammed as a ‘self-interested power-grab’.
Matt Western, MP for Warwick and Leamington, has criticised the plans and called for a full consultation before any decisions are made.
He also claimed that Warwickshire County Council is looking to create a Mayor of Warwickshire.
But Cllr Izzy Seccombe, leader of Warwickshire County Council, stressed that no decisions have been made. She pointed out the financial difficulties caused by Covid-19 and said the council faces a stark choice between increasing council tax, reducing services or “reshaping the future” and saving tens of millions of pounds.
She also said it is a time for all to engage in the process of moving forward.
What is happening with the councils?
At the moment, Warwickshire is run by a two-tier system, with borough and district councils taking responsibility in local areas for some services, while Warwickshire County Council runs other services across the wider area.
The government has asked all councils across the country to look at potential reform.
As reported, Shire Hall’s preferred option is to see councils such as Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, Rugby Borough Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Warwick District Council abolished.
You can get your Warwickshire news straight to your email inbox – and it’s FREE!
All you need to do is sign up here.
The emails come out twice a day, at lunchtime and in the evening, with the latest news, what’s on and sport from across the county.
One single, unitary authority would take its place, with responsibility for everything from education to bins, grass cutting and roads.
Labour MP Mr Western has criticised the Conservative-run Warwickshire County Council over the plans.
What has Mr Western said?
Mr Western said: “The public will not be impressed by these self-interested power-grabs. I’m opposing this proposal and believe instead that we should explore different options with the general public.
“Setting aside the lack of consultation, the plans themselves are deeply concerning. I don’t believe centralising power into one, potentially distant council is the way forward. Likewise, the idea of a Mayor of Warwickshire is faintly ridiculous.
“The leadership of Warwickshire County Council suggest that this move will save money. However, I believe this will actually cost more than it saves in the short term.
“Just look across the country where similar plans have been implemented: Torbay Council became distant to many residents and the shake-up cost them more than it saved and had to cut all non-essential spending as a result.
“I implore the county council to withdraw their rushed-through plans and instead undertake a proper and open consultation exercise – together with district/borough councils – to ensure we get the best democratic structure that works in the interests of Warwickshire residents.”
Mr Western has also launched a petition where Warwickshire residents can oppose the plans and call for a consultation.
“The future may be uncertain”
Cllr Izzy Seccombe, leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “The council passed the resolution to submit our ‘Case for Change’ to government, and in due course we will be doing this.
“The resolution has not committed the council to one or two unitary councils but has said that we should engage in conversations about what the future make up of Warwickshire should be.
“This should include districts, boroughs, communities and all who work with local authorities. Through the Covid crisis, there has been a tremendous response from all local authorities, but it has also highlighted some of the glitches and inefficiencies in a two-tier system.
“There is no doubt that money can be saved, but it is essential to have a service that works and responds to the needs of our residents. Now is the time for all to engage in that process.
“Covid has also cost local government and the country and great deal of money. The future for many residents may be uncertain.
“We have choices across all tiers of local government ahead which are either to increase council tax greatly, to reduce services to residents or to try to reshape the future when we know we can make tens of millions of pounds of savings.”