Council Submits Unitary Case To Minister

Released 9 May 2006

Exeter's bid to become a unitary authority has taken a step closer with the submission of an outline case to Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

The City Council believes the change would bring about a more responsive, coherent, effective and efficient way of governing Exeter. It would also eradicate the public confusion that currently exists with two councils looking after the interests of the city.

If successful, a new unitary city council could be up and running in Exeter by April 2009.

Council Leader Roy Slack, said: "The Government has initiated a debate on the most appropriate arrangements for local government. This case explains why a single council in Exeter would be able to respond more effectively to the Minister's concern for efficiency, strategic leadership and neighbourhood governance. One council would also remove the constraints of public confusion, competing priorities and the lack of accountability - all of which have shrouded the two-tier system since 1974."

He added: "Exeter has to deal with different issues to its largely rural surroundings and we need decision-making arrangements which will allow us to focus on those issues and ensure that Exeter remains a dynamic city and a driver of regional economic growth."

Chief Executive, Philip Bostock, said, "The Government will be publishing a White Paper on the future of local government soon and it is imperative that any proposals reflect the best interests of the City and the people of Exeter. Our outline case is accompanied by independent research from the renowned Institute of Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham, the conclusion of which makes our case for unitary status all the more compelling."

Exeter's case highlights how:

  • Exeter is a distinctive regional city in the South West, which has enjoyed significant economic and employment growth over the last decade, and as a unitary council could respond more effectively to the Government's Cities Agenda
  • Exeter has the potential and energy to play an even greater role in the future of the region and the development of the city and how this might be enhanced through a unitary council
  • Having one authority responsible for Exeter would ensure simple accountability, clarity of who does what and deliver efficiency gains
  • As an "excellent" authority, the City Council has taken forward modernisation of local government and ensured the delivery of high quality, efficient public services whilst setting the fourth lowest council tax of any district

In addition, Sir Michael Lyons who is conducting a wide ranging review of local government for the Department of Communities and Local Government has also asked for views on how councils should operate and be financed in the future. His interim report is expected this week.

A potential timetable is for a White paper in June, formal council submissions in the autumn, legislation during 2007, shadow elections in May 2008 and new councils up and running by April 2009.

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