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Local Government: Unitary Councils

Volume 694: debated on Wednesday 25 July 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they will deal with proposals for the creation of unitary councils where such proposals fail to command a broad cross-section of support from partners and stakeholders. [HL4982]

Our invitation to councils issued in October of last year makes it clear that proposals will proceed to implementation only if they are judged to meet the five criteria set out in that invitation, one of which is that proposals must be supported by a broad cross-section of partners and stakeholders.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will approve bids to create new unitary authorities on the basis that proposals meet their five criteria of affordability, a broad cross-section of support, strategic leadership, neighbourhood empowerment and value for money. [HL4991]

Our invitation document published in October of last year set out the criteria with which any proposal must conform. Only proposals that in the Secretary of State's judgment have a reasonable likelihood of meeting the outcome specified by the criteria will proceed towards implementation.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In determining whether a bid for unitary status commands a broad cross-section of support from partners and stakeholders, how much weight they attach to the results of public opinion surveys commissioned by bidding authorities compared to the consultation responses the Government have received from those organisations it has identified as key partners and stakeholders, such as primary care trusts, learning and skills councils, police and voluntary sector organisations. [HL5017]

To determine whether unitary proposals meet the broad cross-section of support criterion, the judgment to be made is whether the range and depth of their supporters is sufficient. In making this judgment, regard is had to all available relevant information, including public opinion surveys and consultation responses. Factors affecting the weight given to any information include in particular the extent to which the information appears to be a reliable indication of informal opinion.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In their assessment of the responses received from the consultation on proposals to create new unitary councils, whether they are using a methodology to weight those responses; and, if so, what that methodology is. [HL5018]

The Government have regard to all of the responses to the Government's stakeholder consultation on unitary proposals. The weight we attach to particular representations depends on factors including the extent to which they address the questions posed in the consultation document and the nature of the evidence which supports them.