Saturday, 24 November 2007

Independent report slams LGR

I am quite disappointed that the local press has failed to report the damning findings of a new report from two well-known academics into the local government reorganisation process through which unitary status is being forced on Cornwall.

The report has been produced by Professors Steve Leach (De Montfort University) and Michael Chisholm (Cambridge University). It pulls no punches and finds that:

• The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has completely failed to honour the undertaking given in October 2006 to consult the public. Only one conclusion is possible; Ministers were aware that many unitary proposals would be unlikely to receive public endorsement.

• The process was biased in favour of unitary outcomes. The DCLG has been seriously inconsistent and highly selective in its appraisal of the bids.

• There seems to be scant concern for what ordinary people think. In October 2006, it was stated that bids must conform to the five criteria, including the criterion of a broad cross-section of support for the proposals. By July 2007, this had been diluted to reasonable likelihood after implementation.

• With respect to costs/savings, bidders have been ‘very inventive in compiling their submissions.’

• With respect to the conflicting criteria of Strategic Leadership and Neighbourhood Empowerment, the bids ‘display considerable contortions in trying to comply.’

• In many of the county bids, the proposed size of the electoral divisions presents a risk to councillors’ capacity to engage with the electorate.

• The Secretary of State has chosen to ignore the statutory procedures set out in the Local Government Act 1992. She has, instead, relied upon the expectation of obtaining retrospective powers under a new statute which is, in principle, pernicious.

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has written to Cornwall’s five Liberal Democrat MPs calling on them to demand a meeting with the Secretary of State and to do all in their power to stop County Council’s bid for a single unitary authority from proceeding.

I have, so far, received three responses - none of which are very encouraging. I will post details of their views when I have heard from them all.

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