The Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government has decided to abolish all councils in Somerset and North Yorkshire and replace them with a single unitary council in both counties. In Cumbria, the government has made the decision to create two unitary authorities, replacing all existing councils.
Simon Edwards, Director of the County Councils Network said:
“Today’s decision to propose the creation of a single unitary authority in both Somerset and North Yorkshire is the right decision, supported by the findings of CCN’s own independent research. It is a result of the county council in both areas putting forward the most credible proposals, with each one commanding a great deal of support from residents, business, health leaders, and political stakeholders – and meeting the government’s tests and criteria.
“With all local authorities in each area to be replaced by a new council, it is important that every council collaborates to make the transition a success for the residents and communities they serve. The new unitary authorities should be a mixture of all the talents from the present councils, and the County Councils Network will support all stakeholders over the coming period, drawing on the experiences of our 13 unitary member councils.
“Cumbria County Council put forward a business case that showed a single county unitary model would generate the most savings, provide the best platform for Covid-19 recovery, and avoid the challenges presented by disaggregating county-wide services. The government recognised the proposal meet all the three tests of their criteria but it has decided to propose a two unitary authority model in Cumbria.
“The decision is at odds with the government’s long-standing criteria that new unitary councils should serve a minimum population in excess of 300,000. However it is clear from the government’s statement that local factors, including unique geographical issues, that have led to this decision.
“We cannot see how these circumstances would lead to a similar decision in any other part of the country and therefore this should not set a precedent for future reforms. Splitting county services should only be undertaken in the most unique circumstances, such as in Northamptonshire, and we will support the county council in its next steps in responding to the announcement and its implications.”