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Local Government: Reorganisation

Volume 505: debated on Friday 5 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate he has made of the net effect on public expenditure of introducing unitary local authorities in England. (316002)

Our pre-Budget report makes clear that measures to reduce duplication and inefficiency between different tiers of local government will contribute to the £11 billion a year of savings which, as announced in that report, will be delivered by 2012-13. The nine new unitary councils established on 1 April 2009 show the capacity for savings with estimated savings either directly attributable to the transition to unitary local government or facilitated by it totalling some £159 million included in their 2009-10 budgets.

However, we have no plans for further programmes of invitations under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 to councils in two-tier areas to submit unitary proposals. We recognise that in some specific cases in the future there might be areas where circumstances are such as to warrant a focused and targeted invitation to councils concerned, and the 2007 Act allows for this.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what formula is applied to determine the number of councillors in a new unitary authority area established to replace a two-tier structure; what the recommended range for the number of electors per councillor in a non-metropolitan unitary authority is; and if he will make a statement. (314973)

Electoral arrangements, including the number of councillors in each local authority, are generally matters for the Boundary Committee for England and the Electoral Commission (from 1 April 2010 the Local Government Boundary Commission for England), and there are no recommended ranges for the number of electors per councillor. It is open to the Secretary of State to include in any structural change Order, implementing a unitary proposal, provision for electoral arrangements to apply pending any electoral review by the Boundary Committee. When including such provision the Secretary of State will have regard to the number of electors per councillor in other similar unitary councils and to any representations he receives on the matter.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with which (a) elected councillors and (b) council officials (i) he and (ii) officials of his Department have met since January 2009 to discuss proposals for local government reorganisation in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk. (314974)

Since January 2009, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, my ministerial colleagues and I, and officials in Communities and Local Government, have had a range of meetings with councillors and council officers from Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk as part of our usual business, during which the issue of local government restructuring may have been raised.

Since 8 December 2009, when the period for representations to be made to the Secretary of State about the Boundary Committee's advice began, meetings with affected local councils have taken place for representations to be made on the unitary proposals or for discussions on possible transitional arrangements.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Stevenage (Barbara Follett) and I met the following councillors and officers during this time:

Devon

Devon County Council:

Councillor John Clatworthy (Deputy Leader),

Councillor Brian Greenslade (Shadow Leader of the Council),

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, and

a senior officer of the council

East Devon District Council:

Councillor Ray Franklin

Exeter City Council:

Councillor Peter Edwards,

Councillor Jeff Coates and

the chief executive

Mid Devon District Council:

Councillor Peter Hare-Scott (Leader)

North Devon District Council:

Councillor Des Brailey (Leader)

South Hams District Council:

Councillor Michael Hicks

Torridge District Council:

Councillor James Morrish (Leader)

West Devon District Council:

Councillor James McInnes (Leader)

Norfolk

Norwich City Council:

Councillor Stephen Morphew (Leader),

the chief executive and

another senior officer

Breckland District Council:

Councillor William Nunn (Leader) and

the chief executive

Broadland District Council:

Councillor Roger Foulger and

the chief executive

Great Yarmouth BC:

Councillor Barry Coleman (Leader),

the chief executive and

another senior officer

King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council:

Councillor Nick Daubney (Leader) and

the chief executive

North Norfolk District Council:

Councillor Virginia Gay (Leader) and

the chief executive

South Norfolk District Council:

Councillor John Fuller (Leader),

the chief executive and

another senior officer

Suffolk

Forest Heath District Council:

Councillor Geoffrey Jaggard (Leader) and

the chief executive

Ipswich Borough Council:

Councillor Liz Harsant (Leader),

the chief executive and

another senior officer

Mid Suffolk District Council:

Councillor Tim Passmore (Leader) and

the chief executive

St Edmundsbury Borough Council:

Councillor John Griffiths (Leader) and

the chief executive

Suffolk Coastal District Council:

Councillor Ray Herring (Leader),

Councillor Andy Smith (Deputy Leader) and

the chief executive

Suffolk County Council:

Councillor Jeremy Pembroke (Leader) and

the chief executive

Waveney District Council:

Councillor Mark Bee (Leader),

Councillor Colin Law (Deputy Leader),

the chief executive and

another senior officer

Officials also met:

Devon

Devon County Council: the chief executive and senior officers

Exeter City Council: the chief executive and senior officers

South Hams District Council: the chief executive

Norfolk

Broadland DC: the chief executive

Kings Lynn and West Norfolk BC: the chief executive and senior officers

Norfolk County Council: the chief executive and a senior officer

Norwich City Council: the chief executive and a senior officer

South Norfolk DC: Councillor Richard Kemp and a senior officer

Suffolk

Forest Heath District Council: the chief executive and a senior officer

Ipswich Borough Council: the chief executive and a senior officer

St Edmundsbury Borough Council: a senior officer

Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils: the chief executive and senior officers

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will list for each unitary authority created since 2007 the period of time which elapsed between the decision to implement the Boundary Committee’s proposals for unitary status and the election of councillors to a shadow unitary authority. (314980)

No unitary authority has been created since 2007 which involved implementing proposals of the Boundary Committee.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many posts in each of the unitary authorities created since 2007 have been abolished as a result of reorganisation; and how much in total has been paid in redundancy payments. (314987)

The establishment of nine new unitary councils on 1 April 2009 has led to a reduction of 330 senior management posts across those authorities, saving £23 million per annum and involving 44 chief executives leaving office through resignation, redundancy or retirement. There are also other staff reductions, on which information is not held centrally, contributing to the efficiency savings being made by the nine new unitary councils which are expected to total over £150 million this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for what reasons his Department’s consultation on proposals for unitary local government draft structural change orders is shorter than the 12 weeks recommended in the Code of Practice on Consultation. (315039)

We have sought by 3 February 2010 views from the councils potentially affected by any decision to implement unitary local government in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk on the main possible transitional arrangements, recognising the need to end uncertainty and to move forward as quickly as practicable.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what consideration he has given to redrawing (a) ward and (b) district boundaries in (i) Norfolk, (ii) Suffolk and (iii) Devon consequent on proposals for the reorganisation of local government in each in order to meet requirements for the equal distribution of councillors. (315156)

We are considering the Boundary Committee's advice carefully as well as all the representations we have received in relation to the Committee's alternative proposals, all of which for the three county areas would involve changes to district boundaries.

We have sought, by 3 February 2010, the views of the councils potentially affected by any decision to implement unitary local government in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk on the main possible transitional arrangements, including electoral arrangements for the first elections to any new unitary authority. We will have regard to these views when preparing any structural change orders.