County chiefs hold East region summit

A SUMMIT meeting of county council bosses across the East of England is being held in Newmarket today > to talk about co-operation ahead of the Government's review of the structure of local government.

By Graham Dines

A SUMMIT meeting of county council bosses across the East of England is being held in Newmarket today > to talk about co-operation ahead of the Government's review of the structure of local government.

Suffolk's council Leader Jeremy Pembroke and the Chief Executive Mike More will join the Leader of Essex Lord Hanningfield, its Chief Executive Paul Coen and the leaders and chief officers of Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire as they prepare to respond to demands from Whitehall for a radical shake-up in the delivery of services.

A review has been initiated by David Miliband, the Minister for Local Government and the Communities in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which could lead to a massive shake-up of local authorities.


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Ministers want services delivered more efficiently and one of the options they are considering is the merging of county and district council councils to create huge all-purpose authorities responsible for everything from education, social services and highways to parks, cemeteries and housing.

Mr Miliband has said he is “actively considering” the case for reorganisation in the 34 English shire counties. “I'm not concerned with structure for its own sake nor with a battle for supremacy between counties and districts. This is part of a wider debate about governance in the 21st century.

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“Norfolk has seven district councils and 21 market towns, for example. We need to ask if the best relationship is between the county and the districts or between one or more unitary authorities and local neighbourhoods. And if it is the latter, we need to look at how that relationship works - be it a new role for parish and town councils, a new role for ward councillors or an innovative new deal for bottom-up accountability.

“What I do want for local government is strong leadership; a focus on the neighbourhood level; innovative service delivery; and value for money.”

Mr Pembroke, who is hosting the Newmarket meeting, said the council leaders would discuss how to reduce costs and deliver services. “It's about economy of scale - recent rises in council tax are not sustainable and the public will not put up with huge rises in the future.”

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