Unitary council campaign in Colchester
LEADING politicians are telling Colchester taxpayers they could save thousands of pounds if they join forces with their neighbours in Tendring.Colchester Liberal Democrats have launched a campaign to try to prevent the borough being ruled from Chelmsford under expected proposals for restructure of local Government.
By Sharon Asplin
LEADING politicians are telling Colchester taxpayers they could save thousands of pounds if they join forces with their neighbours in Tendring.
Colchester Liberal Democrats have launched a campaign to try to prevent the borough being ruled from Chelmsford under expected proposals for restructure of local Government.
Although there are no concrete plans for a shake-up of county, borough or district councils, it is an open secret the Government favours regional government coupled with some form of unitary authority.
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According to Colchester Liberal Democrat group leader Colin Sykes the most sensible option would be to scrap the county council and merge the Colchester borough and Tendring district into one unitary authority.
The two areas already worked closely together on a number of issues, he argued and such a solution would end current confusion over council responsibilities and slash councillor expenses and bureaucracy.
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He said: “We have long argued that a combined Colchester and Tendring unitary council would be in the best interests of local people, indeed it is Colchester Borough Council's policy.
“As it is becoming clear the Government intends to introduce unitary councils within the next year or so, we need to put our case forward strongly or we will end up with whatever the Government gives us.
“We should not have to always be competing against other parts of Essex as far away as Canvey Island, for funding. This is not about politics, it's about giving the residents the services they deserve.”
Tim Young, Colchester Labour group leader, said the Liberal Democrats were actually following on from suggestions already made by the Labour group.
John Jowers, Colchester Borough Council leader who is also a Conservative member of the county council, questioned the financial viability of such a scheme and said he thought moves were premature.
“As a borough council we are already working with Tendring and Braintree councils and sharing expertise and this partnership is good for everyone. My view is councillors should represent people they know and this is regionalisation by the back door.
The idea is also not popular with Tendring District Council leader Terry Allen. The Conservative councillor said: “There is no heart or interest in Tendring for this, we would fight any attempts to introduce it and don't want to give it any credibility.
“It would cause years of complete mayhem, be a tremendous cost and is no way forward for localism. If this legislation were dumped on us we would fight to go it alone as we have the size, stature and capability to do so.”
He is backed by Lord Hanningfield, leader of Conservative-controlled Essex County Council, who said splitting up many of the county council services would cost billions rather than save money.
“We need this reorganisation like a hole in the head as it would cost millions and we need that money to spend on services, such as elderly people and children,” he said.
The Liberal Democrats, who will make this issue one of their central policies in the run up to borough council elections in May, will send out petition slips to households in Colchester over the next few days and expect to gauge levels of support within a month.