Unitary plans shelved for now
Campaigners fighting to stop the abolition of local Borough and District Councils and their replacement with large, remote and unaccountable countywide Unitary authorities have welcomed progress in their campaign.
118 Liberal Democrat Councillors from across the East Midlands signed a letter co-authored by Hinckley and Bosworth Councillor Michael Mullaney and leader of the Lib Dem group on Chesterfield Borough Council Paul Holmes, to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government calling on the government to drop plans that could see Borough Councils in the region abolished and replaced with larger Unitary authorities.
The letter has now been responded to by local government Minister Luke Hall, in it Mr Hall said "the Government will not impose top-down restructuring of local government and will continue to follow a locally led approach for unitarisation where councils can develop proposals which have strong local support."
Councillor Michael Mullaney said "I welcome the news that the government will no longer force through Unitaries where they aren't wanted. Abolishing local Boroughs like Hinckley and Bosworth and replacing them with large distant Unitaries based on big counties will see the link between local people and their representatives severed. People will feel much more distant from the decision making process if these plans go ahead. Certainly here in Leicestershire and across the East Midlands many people don't want to see local Councils abolished and replaced by authorities that will be further away from them. There is no strong local support for these proposals."
Leader of Chesterfield Lib Dem Councillors Paul Holmes said "This seems to be a major U turn by the the Government. In the summer Ministers made speeches indicating that abolition of Boroughs and Districts and the creation of vast Unitary Councils, would be a compulsory condition of releasing Government money to new Region wide Mayors."
"Now they suggest that they will no longer insist on this. Or is that just until after next May's elections where they were scared of the backlash against their ill thought out plans? Will they change their mind again once the County Council elections are out of the way?"