News that Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has announced he intends to bring forward legislation to repeal the decision to give Exeter unitary status has been greeted with dismay in the city council.
Vice chair of Exeter’s Implementation Executive, Cllr Pete Edwards, said: “This is a complete outrage. So much for big society and local democracy. People, politicians and buinesses in Exeter all backed a unitary authority. Parliament backed a unitary. Now a man only in the job for two days, who will have had no time to study the benefits an Exeter unitary offers residents, is prepared to unpick over four years work and retain the clearly broken two tier system.
“All rational people accept that the two tier system has had its day, particularly in times of economic hardship. Who would retain a system that is full of duplication, waste and lacks local accountability? Deep cuts in public service spending will be needed to meet government targets. This is not the time to be going back over old ground!”
However, the Secretary of State has given no indication of the timetable he is working to in bringing forward new legislation. This means that the Implementation Executive charged with delivering the transition to a new unitary must continue to meet and plan until any new legislation is enacted.
Chief executive, Philip Bostock, said: “We have a very tight timetable to deliver a unitary council and we have to, by law, continue with that planning to ensure there is no disruption to services. The Secretary of State’s comments are unhelpful in the extreme especially considering the amount of time and money that has already been put into the process. I would hope that before finally making up his mind the new minister would at least be willing to listen to the arguments.”
(from a press release)