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ACC CHAIR RALLIES COUNTIES IN OPEN LETTER

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Voices of doubt and opposition to the local government review are getting stronger, said ACC chair, Dennis Pettitt ...
Voices of doubt and opposition to the local government review are getting stronger, said ACC chair, Dennis Pettitt in a letter to all county councils today.

In some areas there is a growing consensus that the review should be stopped, writes Mr Pettitt. 'The recent House of Lords debate on the review illustrated this graphically, with 37 out of the 44 speakers expressing concern about the review and where it may lead.

'Even within the ADC, the last bastion of support for the review, dissent from the official line grows apace. Recently they claimed that over 160 district chief executives had written to the government supporting unitary councils. Assuming that district chief executives' views are relevant, I wonder what the remaining 140 think?

The ACC supported John Major and the Local Government Commission's view that 'there will not be change for change's sake.

'Flexibility and diversity are now the name of the game - 'no national blueprint' as John Gummer has made clear.'

Mr Pettitt said it was 'deluded' to think that unitary councils had 'massive public support'.

'When the 'don't knows' are excluded from the recent MORI surveys covering more than a third of counties, support for the unitary principle averages out at 51%. In over half these counties it is 50% or less. In some district areas support for the principle falls to a third.

'This picture is even less convincing when it comes to particular unitary structures. Of those so far recommended by the Commission particular unitary proposal have commanded 50% or more support in only 6 districts (out of a potential 63). Overall the present structure was four times as likely to command such support at district level as any particular unitary alternative.'

Mr Pettitt said counties should pay special attention to safe guarding services. 'We simply cannot afford to have key public services shattered and fragmented by unwelcome or unnecessary structural change,' he writes.

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