Council merger plans take step forward

Jerry Roodhouse
Jerry Roodhouse

Proposals to merge all the borough and district councils in Warwickshire with the county council have taken a step forward.

County councillors voted on Tuesday to examine the idea of forming a ‘unitary’ authority. At present, the county council is responsible for a different set of services from borough and district councils – and some believe that combining them into one would save taxpayers millions of pounds.

Independent Dunchurch councillor Howard Roberts spoke in favour of the idea at this week’s debate. He said: “The financial savings that could be achieved with unitary status would allow Warwickshire to save at least £17 million per year. These savings would protect services and reduce council tax for the people of Warwickshire. As the savings would be achieved by efficiencies rather than frontline cuts it would seem to be foolish not to explore this option.”

The county’s Liberal Democrats have welcomed the outcome, having initiated the debate in October. Group leader Cllr Jerry Roodhouse said: “Lib Dems call on all parties to put aside tribal differences and vested interests, and to consider the evidence for and against unitary local government on its merits. We believe that the final decision must rest with the people of Warwickshire through a referendum.”

The council’s ruling Conservative group also supports the idea, but Rugby Borough Council leader Cllr Craig Humphrey opposes it. He said: “We have improved services at the same time as reducing their cost. Warwickshire County Council has responded to its need to make savings by opening a debate about the structure of local government This is a distraction. No structure of itself delivers either good services or savings.”