Mixed reaction to plans to scrap two-tier local authorities in Stroud district

LOCAL councillors have given mixed reactions to a report by Lord Heseltine calling for two-tier authorities, such as that used in the Stroud district, to be scrapped.

The review was commissioned by Chancellor George Osborne and consists of 89 different recommendations to help foster economic growth in the UK.

Currently services provided by local government to residents in the area are split, with Gloucestershire County Council in charge of areas such as education, transport, social services and libraries.

Stroud District Council looks after services such as housing, licensing, local planning, refuse collection and environmental health, with a number of responsibilities shared by the two.

However the report, titled ‘No stone unturned in pursuit of growth’, claims that the current system is "confusing" and "expensive" and should be replaced with one unitary authority, potentially covering the whole county.

Cllr Dennis Andrewartha, who serves Dursley and Cam at parish, district and county council level, said he agreed with a lot of Lord Heseltine’s suggestions.

"We’re in a position where we (Stroud District Council) collect the rubbish and they (Gloucestershire County Council) are in charge of getting rid of it. It’s nonsense," he said.

"Undoubtedly there’s waste in Gloucestershire. We can’t go on cutting our finances, we should look at what we do and how we do it.

"I do not agree with a single unitary authority for the whole of Gloucestershire, but a single authority for this area should be considered."

However, chairman of Stroud District Council and Cllr for Cam East John Hudson said it was not just about the money.

"I can see the financial sense in unitary authorities because we would have one council looking after everything," he said.

"The drawbacks I see are about localism. It would distance the councillor from his area, you’ll have a situation where one person is covering a bigger area and with more responsibilities.

"Savings could be achieved by closer working together between the district councils, which could be improved."

Leader of the district council and Dursley Cllr Geoff Wheeler said he was pleased with the endorsement for a single authority.

"The view of the Labour Party in Gloucestershire has always been in favour of a change to a unitary authority," he said.

"It would an advantage to the public because at the moment you have seven chief executive teams servicing the county.

"Obviously there would be some expense in starting up the unitary authority but the gains saved year on year would compensate for that."

As well as increasing funding to local government, Lord Heseltine suggested that councillors should be elected using the same four-year electoral cycle rather then staggered over three years as it is currently.

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