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Local Government

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 29 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, pursuant to the written statement of 27 March 2007, Official Report, columns 71-3WS, on local government, what steps she plans to take in the event of the proposal for a unitary authority for Bedford being approved to ensure that a satisfactory outcome is obtained for the whole of the county of Bedfordshire. (130775)

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 27 January 2007, Official Report, columns 71-3WS, on local government, what assessment she has made of the potential implications for (a) Mid-Bedfordshire and (b) South Bedfordshire of the approval of a unitary authority for Bedford; and if she will make a statement. (130792)

We are now consulting stakeholders and partners (including all local authorities affected) on two unitary proposals for Bedfordshire—the proposal of Bedfordshire county council for a single unitary for the whole of Bedfordshire, and the proposal of Bedford borough council for a unitary Bedford. It is open to anyone, including the local authorities affected, i.e., Mid Bedfordshire and South Bedfordshire, to comment on these proposals.

They may choose to respond to the consultation by proposing support for the Bedfordshire county council unitary proposal or by proposing support for the Bedford borough proposal, and in doing so, may suggest that the remainder of the county also be made unitary.

On the basis of the information currently before us, it is the Government’s view that should the proposals for a unitary Bedford be accepted then the remainder of the county area would not be a viable two-tier area.

If, therefore, following consultation, we decided to implement the Bedford borough proposal, it would be open to us to direct (subject to the enactment of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill), the remaining authorities in Bedfordshire to come forward with a unitary proposal for the remainder of the county area.