Kent’s 13 smaller councils ‘should be scrapped’, report recommends

KCC County Hall

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Scrapping Kent’s 13 smaller councils and merging them into a larger unitary authority could generate major savings, a report says.

The County Councils Network (CCN) dossier says a single unitary authority in each of the 25 remaining two-tier areas – like Kent – could save around £3billion over the next five years in a “compelling” financial case for councils.

The publication of the 73-page CCN report comes ahead of a Government white paper which is expected to outline major reforms to local government.

Swale Borough Council Leader Roger Truelove (Lab), who warned about the “encroachment” to local democracy, said he would resist the idea, adding: “Kent, in my view, is too big to be a unitary authority on its own.”

However, Cllr David Williams, chairman of the CCN, said: “Unitary counties won’t lead to a democratic deficit. Rather, as evidenced by authorities that have already made this journey, they have the potential to bring services closer to residents.”

The proposal put forward by CCN would see around 213 smaller councils in England scrapped and replaced with 25 new and larger local authorities. It is hoped this would “safeguard” council services in the wake of the pandemic.

In Kent, this would likely mean the 12 district councils and single unitary authority could merge with Kent County Council (KCC) as the largest authority in the area which covers around 1.5 million people.

Medway Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), leader of the only unitary authority in Kent which was set up in 1998, said he would not support the idea of “major reform” to the way local government is run in Kent.

At a virtual cabinet meeting on Tuesday, he added: “Without an effective local government and proactive sector we would not be in an improving position as a country that we are now.”

The CCN says it does not favour creating multiple unitaries for each area because that would mean “splitting up” children’s social services and adult social care departments which are currently overseen by county councils.

It would also mean that different councils would be “competing” over scarce care providers at a time when demand for social care will likely rise post-coronavirus, the CCN adds.

Plans for an East Kent “super council” involving four authorities including Dover, Folkestone, Thanet and Canterbury were mooted in 2017 but never progressed.

Medway Council opposition leader Vince Maple (Lab) said he could see a North Kent unitary authority working logistically.

Bournemouth merged from four councils into one in April 2019, covering an area of around 450,000 people.

The tight-lipped Whitehall administration has kept its cards close to its chest ahead of the white paper outlining its proposal.

A spokesman for the department of Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We’re committed to levelling up all areas of the country and empowering our regions by devolving money, resources and control away from Westminster.

“We’ll set out our detailed plans in the White Paper that will be published this autumn.”

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “We are anticipating the White Paper with interest. The council is open to exploring what a reorganisation of local government could look like – particularly where that safeguards and improves services to the public and enables the most effective use of resources, which is important in light of the impact of COVID 19.”

22 Comments

  1. Yes I will be glad when the smaller Irritating ivory towers that are run by agitators like Ramsgate Town Council are done away with they are a complete waste of money and indeed they give taxpayers money away to their friends.
    I am informed that there is to be an investigation into it.

      • JR not required by supporters, as permission granted Sec of State.
        Only fools against Manston are demanding a JR, and it will not win, because Sec of State has already given all inquiries ‘for and against’ his valuation.
        JR a complete waste of Tax Payers money, as it has ‘zero’ chance of worthiness. It is worthless.

          • And a decision which went entirely against the reasoned advice of the planning inspectorate. What on earth does Grant Shapps think he’s doing?

        • Why do you use your title? This is not about anything to do with medicine, or do you have a Phd? I had letters after my name too, but never used them unless it was to lend weight to something to do with my profession. So tell us “Doctor” why do you use “Doctor” after your name? It doesn’t impress me.

  2. No, this may save money, but will it make it more efficient? KCC is incompetent, and inefficient in my recent experience! For instance, their Highways website says it is unlikely they will accept any proposals for road improvements, unless they are first submitted to a Kent County Councillor for approval! This is so wrong on so many levels, and is a deliberate ploy to stop the public requesting road improvements to KCC, even if they submit evidence that it is urgently needed! What if you are opposed to your KCC Councillor politically, and they know it? They are hardly likely to want to take up your case, in any event why should the public even have to do this, if they are perfectly capable of dealing with it themselves! Case in point: Craig Mackinlay will never help me, because he knows I am opposed to him! I know this because I have tried, and he always gives me some ridiculous reply should I dare ask him about some issue!

  3. I agree that TDC has a great deal to answer for and so have some individual councils, Ramsgate for instance which recently ploughed a considerable amount of public money into the opposition of Manston airport. However, it also has to be remembered that there are all the smaller town councils that will go if TDC does. Town councillors have their fingers on the pulse of local issues, hear about problems and are often in a position to rectify situations before they become a major issue. An example of this is the ridiculous new one way traffic system proposed by KCC in Westgate which, if it goes ahead, will kill Westgate town centre because there will be insufficient parking.
    If district and therefore town councils go, who will we have to fight local causes? As things are now we have people we know who we can approach with concerns but that would not be possible if councils are all under one umbrella.
    Saving funds must NOT be the main concern. Local people who we have voted for MUST continue to deal with local problems and should continue to represent us and our concerns.

    • “Ramsgate for instance which recently ploughed a considerable amount of public money into the opposition of Manston airport”

      You’ll find it is a pledge if there is a shortfall in funding, and so far they haven’t handed over any money and may not need to !

    • “Ramsgate for instance which recently ploughed a considerable amount of public money into the opposition of Manston airport. ”
      Well, in the scheme of things, hardly any money at all.
      For example, the TDC paid out more than £30,000 for a report about Manston Airport…much of that on Chris Wells (UKIP plane supporters) watch.

      • Ramsgate Town Councillors are fully justified in donating funds for the Judicial Review to stop Manston re-opening, because should it do so, low flying cargo aircraft just 300 meters high over Weatherspoons, at least two an hour, will destroy the Harbour, Town, as a tourist attraction, devalue property as the flight path goes right behind the ASDA store, Ellington Park, St Lawrence, and the Nethercourt estate! This is madness, and all so an American Hedge Fund company can make more money, at the same time as poisoning us with air pollution, and deafening us with noise! I have donated several hundreds of pounds to the Crowd Funding for the Judicial Review, and I am not alone, as it receives thousands each week, but needs more, so look it up!

  4. This ‘New Idea’ comes around every 3-4 years, and never gets past!
    Forget it!
    Complete and utter waste of time.

  5. This endless tinkering and re organising Councils misses the point. Like re arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
    The major factors are :—-

    A) What are the actual policies of the elected councillors, regardless of whether they are a long way away or just round the corner? And

    B) Will the Westminster government restore all the money they have progressively blocked from local Councils over the last ten years. If they returned all that money, and the Councils were able to get back to spending it on street-cleaning, public toilets, libraries, youth clubs, enforcement of housing regulations to tidy up the derelict buildings, control over inappropriate house building,provision of a proper bus service, park and playing area maintenance, to name just a few activities now much-neglected due to lack of funds, we might have fewer grumbles about local Councils. And we wouldn’t be tempted to support yet more pointless re organisations in the vain hope that shuffling the Council boundaries around will make much difference.

  6. They waste more money on all the consultations then do what they want anyway.
    It won’t benefit the residents of Kent one iota but maybe the CEO’s and those running it day to day.

  7. This piece of work was commissioned by the county councils so will be naturally biased.

    Having said that, there is a strong argument for rationalising levels of local government. How confusing is it that you could walk down a street and want to report a problem with a town noticeboard (Town or parish council), littering (District Council) and a street light not working (county council) It’s nonsensical.

    Kent, however, is too big for one authority. Much more likely is a split 3 or 4 ways. Either way we can relegate Thanet District Council to the history books which will be a good thing and see an organisation which, let’s face it, can only be an improvement.

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