The end of Warwickshire's district and borough councils? County council to push for unitary authority

The county council's offices in Warwick. Photo: Google Streetview.The county council's offices in Warwick. Photo: Google Streetview.
The county council's offices in Warwick. Photo: Google Streetview.
The extraordinary meeting lasted almost three hours

Warwickshire County Council is pushing ahead with plans to scrap district and borough councils and form a county-wide unitary council even though opponents say the proposal has been rushed through.

Leader Cllr Izzi Seccombe (Con Stour and the Vale) chaired yesterday’s (August 27) extraordinary cabinet meeting when councillors unanimously agreed to submit the case for changing to a single unitary council.

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The matter will now come before full council on September 22.

Two other options could be considered ahead of a Government White Paper next month - retaining the current two-tier system or a unitary council split between the north and south of the county.

Cllr Seccombe told the meeting, which lasted nearly three hours, that this was an opportunity to change local government for the good.

She said: “We have seen the very best of all councils working together.

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"We’ve seen the best but also shown the challenges and frustrations of the current system that puts blockages in place. This is an opportunity to start to address that.

“What we need to do at the start of this conversation is work together for the future and try to shape together what is the best solution for our residents and for our areas.

"If indeed the answer is a single county unity then it is absolutely imperative that we do a very strong double devolution and ensure that what we do see are areas that have the ability to shape and believe and be proud of their own place and their own community and their own particular histories.”

Cllr Andrew Day, leader of Warwick District Council, was given the opportunity to address the meeting along with representatives from Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council and North Warwickshire Borough Council.

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And he raised questions about the validity of the supporting report drawn up by consultants PwC

He said: “This paper raises some important questions that should be clarified so our residents understand what is exactly being decided upon today.

“It reports that we, and the people of Warwickshire, will not want to see our county divided up but it is unclear as to what consultation with residents have been undertaken to support this comment.

“The key issue for us is why the rush? We appreciate that this is a good opening debate item but we really do need to look at all the options and not just simply a county top-down form of new government.

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"I think Warwickshire deserves that and we certainly would wish to work in partnership with the county to achieve that.”

There was also criticism from the county council’s Labour group leader Cllr Helen Adkins (Leamington Willes) who said: “I think the report was rushed, it wasn’t of brilliant quality if we’re honest and I don’t think it was balanced.

"There was no consultation with the boroughs and districts and when I spoke to PwC they didn’t even seem to know who the leaders were which is quite horrific.”