Sunday, 1 April 2012

All change in Kent?

Amidst all the excitement of the launch of the new National Planning Policy Framework, a low-key consultation on local government reform was initiated by the Communities and Local Government Department.

Entitled, Bold Steps for Local Government and Localism, the consultative document sets out proposals to streamline decision making, enhance localism and reduce costs.  The consultation at this stage is with local authorities but it will become a public consultation in October 2012.

The role of parish and town councils will be enhanced as part of the Localism agenda.  Areas without parish or town councils will have ones created.

 In Kent, it is proposed that the county council be abolished and replaced by two unitary authorities.  West Kent will cover Dartford, Gravesham, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge & Malling, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells.  East Kent will cover Swale, Canterbury, Ashford, Dover, Shepway and Thanet.

The new councils will be co-located at Maidstone in premises currently used by Kent County Council.  The two new councils will be expected to share services and thereby reduce substantially overheads and staffing costs.  Further savings will be achieved by a massive reduction in the number of councillors. With adjustments to existing county council electoral divisions, it is planned that each council will have 40 members.  KCC has 85 members and the number of district councillors runs into hundreds. Each authority will have the directly elected mayor and cabinet model of governance.

Gateways’ services will be enhanced to ensure social services and planning presences in each of the former district council areas.

If nothing else, the proposals will be a godsend to MPs who will have to deal with only one local authority. Currently, some MPs have to contend with three councils.  The MP for Tonbridge has to deal with KCC and Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council.  As Edenbridge is in his constituency, he also has to deal with Sevenoaks District Council. The proposed constituency boundary changes would, if implemented, result in one Kent MP having to deal with three district councils and KCC!

Clearly, these radical proposals will attract bitter and sustained opposition from vested interests, hence the staging of the consultation.

UPDATE:  Fact follows fiction!

1 comment:

  1. You're not catching me out two years running !