Local News

District Council under threat

Tuesday 21 July 2020

East Herts District Council could be abolished if the County Council brings forward proposals to creat a unitary authority for Hertfordshire.

New guidelines are expected to be published by the Government later this year for local government reorganisation, which could see district and borough councils closed down, with powers being transferred to countywide unitary authorities.

District and borough councils are responsible for housing, leisure and recreation, environmental health, waste collection, planning applications and local taxation collections.

The move is strongly opposed by East Herts Council, who issued a statement condemning the proposal:

District Councils have provided a lifeline to residents and communities during the Covid-19 pandemic, providing food and welfare support to those in great difficulty, paying over £149m in grants to local businesses across the county to help their prospects of survival, housing over 1000 homeless people during the pandemic and providing vital services from waste collection to the management of many thousands of council homes.

Local knowledge and local services have been vital in supporting residents, from those suffering the effects of domestic abuse, through to looking after parks and green spaces for people to enjoy.

The District & Borough Council Leaders believe the timing of the County Council’s proposal is poor given the need to ensure there is an absolute focus on supporting their communities and businesses to recover from the devastating effects of Covid-19.

The Hertfordshire District and Borough Councils have demonstrated great innovation to save over £95m during the last ten years to protect services for residents.

The Leaders are opposed to the proposal for a single unitary Council to serve Hertfordshire’s residents, as it would be too large and remote to support local communities and residents, and around three times larger than the size that Government are likely to consider suitable for local areas.

The Leaders have worked together with the County Council very effectively through the Hertfordshire Growth Board for over two years to develop a comprehensive programme that will build on Hertfordshire’s potential and believe that they can continue to make progress as a group of 11 authorities representing the distinct communities of Herts.

The Leaders will now work together along with other key partners and will take account of the views of residents to help inform the development of alternative options for consideration by Government alongside the County Council’s single unitary Council proposal. This will be done with the aim of ensuring that any future model for local government in Hertfordshire is both effective and efficient whilst also providing proper representation for residents. It is not helpful to speculate at this stage about what that might look like as it requires a great deal of work to be done to identify the right solution.

Hertfordshire County Council have yet to table a formal proposal but said in a statement: "Hertfordshire County Council values the importance of strong working relationships and collaboration across the whole public sector in Hertfordshire.

"The environment in which all councils find themselves we recover from the pandemic, requires us to explore how we best organise ourselves to continue to meet the needs of our residents and provide the most effective support for the county’s economic recovery.

"We are just at the start of those considerations and look forward to working with all councils in Hertfordshire to determine our best way forward."

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