Proposals to set up abolish the 10 district and borough councils in Hertfordshire and replace them with a unitary council have been given the thumbs down by their leaders.
Chris White, leader of St Albans City and District Council, set out the reasons for his opposition to the proposal.
He said: “It is clear that the government is rushing ahead with plans to re-organise local government – hardly the best time given the current COVID emergency which will run well into next year and the financial straits facing all councils.
“In response to this pressure, the county council is coyly unveiling plans for a single authority covering the whole county. The prospect of the county council being responsible for all services not provided at parish or town level is naturally alarming: while many services come to you or are easily accessible online, there are times when residents want to talk face to face or attend a meeting of the council in person. They also want assurance that their council actually knows their area.
“But the bigger problem is the proposed cut in representation. Currently there are roughly seven councillors for each 11,000 electors, with county councillors covering highways, care services, as well as public health and district councillors covering planning applications, parking problems, waste collection and leisure and cultural services.
“Most are part time and yet are spending several, sometimes many, hours a week on casework and meetings. Under the county council’s thinking, the same workload would be shared between just two councillors who would either provide a worse service or have to have staff to help them.
“If we have to go down this route, we have to make sure that any new councils are a more sensible size.”
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.