Give your views on proposed merger of Warwick and Stratford district councils

The consultation into the proposed merger to create one authority to cover the whole of South Warwickshire - which is aimed at tackling financial uncertainty for the two authorities in the face of reduced Government funding - starts today

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Residents whose local authorities are either Warwick or Stratford District Councils can give their views on a proposed merger of the two from today.

Both councils are facing a very uncertain financial future.

Government funding for all councils has reduced in recent years and it is estimated that both councils will have shortfalls increasing to around £4-6m per year by 2025/26.

Across the two councils this means that annual savings of around £10 million each year are needed over the next five years.

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This level of annual savings is about one-third of the combined costs of the councils.

Faced with this financial pressure, and "with a determination not to reduce the current level of services", the two councils have decided the best course of action would be to merge into one authority to cover the whole of the South Warwickshire area.

The consultation will run until Sunday October 24.

Residents, businesses, town and parish Councils, local groups and organisations and key stakeholders are encouraged to take part and have their say by completing the online questionnaire.

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Cllr Andrew Day, the leader of Warwick District Council, said: “As much as the pandemic has been a crisis for us, it has presented a challenge and an opportunity for us to re-imagine what local government services in South Warwickshire might be like in the future.

“We need to hear your views – we need to listen and respond to what our residents want.

“Please take the time to carefully reflect on the questions, tell us what you think the future for local government in this area should be so that we can build a vibrant, new, agile and strong Council to serve you.”

Cllr Tony Jefferson, the leader of Stratford-on-Avon District Council, added: “This is an extremely important consultation that relates to the future of both Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick District Councils.

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“Both councils face significant financial challenges - the impact of dealing with the pandemic, when combined with the increased costs of delivering existing services, such as waste management, as well as responding to the climate emergency. We have to recognise the undeniable fact that the world has changed in ways we could not have envisaged and we need to adapt to those changes.

“We also need to consider the positive opportunities that combining Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick District Councils to create a South Warwickshire Council will bring.

“It is vitally important that before the councillors come to a decision, we hear the views of the wider community on whether you believe a merger is the right option to take or not. So please get involved and have your say.”

The consultation document and online questionnaire can be viewed and completed at https://www.southwarwickshire.org.uk/Questionnaires for completion on paper, as well as in different languages and formats can be requested by emailing [email protected] or calling 01789 267575.

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The paper questionnaires are returned using a freepost address.

Questionnaires are also available to pick up at the following locations:

• Warwick – Visitor Information Centre, Jury Street, Warwick CV34 4EW

• Leamington – Town Hall, the Parade, Leamington Spa, CV32 4AT

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• Kenilworth – Library, Smalley Place, Kenilworth CV8 1QG

• Whitnash – Library, Franklin Road, Whitnash CV31 2JH

• Stratford-upon-Avon - the District Council’s offices at Elizabeth House, Church Street, CV37 6HX

The findings from the consultation will be considered, along with any other evidence, at a meeting of the councils on December 13.

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A decision will be taken as to whether they want to formally ask government to allow the councils to merge.

The councils have appointed Opinion Research Services (ORS), an independent social research company, to manage the consultation and objectively report the outcomes.

As well as the public questionnaire the research agency, ORS, will be undertaking a telephone survey with a sample of residents selected to match the profile of both districts.

Focus groups will also be held with residents, again matching the profile of both districts.

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There will also be focus groups with businesses, town and parish councils, plus voluntary and community groups.