LEADER’S COLUMN: Waiting to hear government plans for devolution

I AM sure for most people how your local council is organised is of little concern as long as you get the essential services you need.

For those of us in local government, a hot topic over the summer months has been what central government is likely to be proposing in a White Paper scheduled for later this month on devolution and local government reorganisation.

Gloucestershire, like other parts of England, has a two tier system of councils with the county council overseeing county-wide services like public health, children’s services and social care, and highways, while the six districts have duties around planning, licensing and environmental health and housing, just to name a few of our statutory duties.

Bringing the county and districts into a single tier of local government to become a unitary council is what we anticipate the government’s proposed legislation would involve, and hence the interest from district and county councils across England.

There are already unitaries in many parts of England (our neighbours South Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, for example). The District Council Network, of which Stroud District Council is a part, has followed the debate keenly.

If government does decide to embark on major reform, I think we should engage positively with it for the sake of local residents. We already work collaboratively with our neighbouring councils and this has especially been important during the current crisis. And because we are still in the midst of this public health emergency, perhaps is really not the time for a wholesale local government reorganisation.

Let councils focus their efforts on the current health emergency, keeping people safe, supporting individuals and businesses who have been hit hard and helping communities to recover.

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