District & Borough Council Leaders hit out against a single unitary council proposal for Hertfordshire
The Leaders of the 10 Hertfordshire District and Borough Councils have joined forces to oppose a proposal from Hertfordshire County Council to abolish their Local Authorities in favour of establishing a single unitary Council to serve the 1.2m residents of the county.
Introducing the statement, Leader of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, Cllr Tony Kingsbury, said:
I stand firm with my fellow borough and district leaders in voicing our opposition to a single unitary authority for Hertfordshire.
My priority is to ensure we serve in the best interests of our communities and businesses in Welwyn Hatfield, and I am immensely proud of our track record in delivering positive change for the betterment of our borough.
Across the county, we all want to see local government working as effectively as possible and that will continue to be at the heart of our discussions as we look to the future.
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.