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Shire Local Government: time for change? Brian Wilson, Commission for Rural Communities October 24, 2006

Posted by Lloyd Davis in Uncategorized.
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Brian Wilson, CRCThis discussion paper was published in the summer.

A lot of debate about the structures of local government not least through the Lyons review and the imminent white paper. But it’s striking that this was mostly about urban issues – improving neighbourhood governance in urban areas – but little on shire government.

So what would serve rural communities best? Of course they should have a view on the greater urban areas but there were two issues to focus on:

getting towards powerful new unitaries working closely with a renewed structure of empowered town and parish councils as well sas other neighbourhood level structures.

There have been some rural unitaries, but often the doughnut effect. There has been some strengthening of parish and neighbourhood governance but we feel there is further to go.

Why shire unitaries? Four key arguments:

Reduce public confusion and clarify accountability.

Simplify strategies and partnership working – complexity of two-tier government is too much.

Increase the resource base, to give shire authorities more flexibility.

Increase the clout of shire authorities within their regions – not just in debate, but about targets, strategies and the allocation of money.

This to go hand in hand with a strengthened town and parish council structure, which is a substantial resource that is underused:

Parish plans/market town plans; Community call for action; Resource base eg match-funding or access to business rates; Charters with principal authorities.

CRC about to launch an enquiry on rural community participation in decision making see http://www.ruralcommunities.gov.uk

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