Councils in unitary status rows argue over roads and potholes


County councils across England have continued to push for county-wide unitary status, in the face of opposition from smaller councils.

Hampshire County Council leader Roy Perry said a proposed Solent combined authority devolution deal and a separate ‘Heart of Hampshire’ bid ‘make no economic sense in creating false divisions – geographically and between authorities’.

Hampshire 'has been under-invested for decades'

He added: ‘There is actually an overwhelming financial and service case for creating a county-wide unitary, as is being planned in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.’

It followed claims from Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones that opposition from Hampshire made it ‘highly unlikely’ that the Solent Deal would go ahead.

Cllr Jones said: ‘If it fails this will mean the £1bn investment to the Solent area has been lost. The additional pressure this places on our roads and rail is huge - this area has been under-invested for decades and we are losing out to the north of England.’

Oxfordshire County Council has put forward a proposal to abolish six councils and create a single unitary authority.

Council leader Ian Hudspeth, said: ‘I want local government’s limited budget to be spent on improving services rather than running six separate organisations.

‘While we delay reorganising local government, we are wasting around £400,000 every week on running six councils – per year, that would fill 307,000 potholes or provide homecare for 1,687 older people.’

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said: 'This is the wrong proposal at the wrong time. The creation of a single unitary council for the whole of Oxfordshire would be highly disruptive for local services and will take years to create.’

Lincolnshire County Council announced plans for a referendum on abolishing all eight councils in the county and replacing them with a unitary council, saving up to £150m in the first five years.

Council leader Martin Hill said: ‘The current system of councils in Lincolnshire is one we can no longer afford. Without change, important local services are already being reduced and even cut entirely.’

But Craig Leyland, leader of East Lindsey District Council, , said he was of the ‘firm belief’ that a single unitary council for Lincolnshire was ‘not a viable proposal given the size and geography of the area’.


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