Rasen’s MP expresses concern over plans to scrap district councils

Sir Edward Leigh in the House of Commons EMN-160915-143531001
Sir Edward Leigh in the House of Commons EMN-160915-143531001

Market Rasen MP Sir Edward Leigh has urged caution over proposals to overhaul the current two-tier system of local governance in Lincolnshire.

Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill has suggested scrapping county and district councils in favour of a unitary authority.

Coun Hill claims his idea would save up to £30 million a year and guard against budget cuts to the region’s services.

It is planned to hold a referendum on the proposals in conjunction with the county council elections, which will take place in May.

In his in initial response, Sir Edward Leigh labelled the proposals as ‘hurried’.

He emphasised the importance of district councils, suggesting their closer links to residents meant they could be ‘more effective’ in making decisions.

Sir Edward said: “Any change in how Lincolnshire is governed, at a local level, must proceed only with the consent of all local authorities.

“No one wants a bruising battle to the end of this decade, and perhaps beyond, between the district and county councils about which should be abolished.

“If this is to proceed it must be with the agreement of the county and all the district councils, not a hurried proposal from one authority.”

He continued: “The county council covers a very large amount of territory which can often mean that the decisions it takes in the city can feel remote.

“The district councils are much closer to the residents they represent and can be more effective in doing so.

“It would be quite wrong for the County Council to hold a plebiscite, as a way to secure the Secretary of State’s agreement, to a plan that may not have the support of the districts.”

Speaking about the proposals, Coun Hill said they would present a system which was ‘simpler’ and ‘better for services’.

He explained: “The current system of councils in Lincolnshire is one we can no longer afford.

“A unitary model has successfully been adopted in many areas of the country and has proved to be simpler, better for services, more local and most importantly – costs less to run.

“I believe the current system is complicated, wasteful and no longer financially sustainable.”

He reiterated that the potential savings of £150m in the first five years of a unitary authority could be used to improve local services and reduce potential budget cuts.

The county council is currently looking to save millions of pounds after a significant reduction in the amount of money it receives from central Government.

An anticipated rise in council tax bills this year will not stave off cuts to many frontline services.

District councils - like West Lindsey - are in a similar position.

It remains to be seen if the Government would support the proposals.

○What would you do with £150m? See pages 10&11.