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Government support for unitary authorities was stressed and elaborated on by Environment Minister Tony Baldry yeste...
Government support for unitary authorities was stressed and elaborated on by Environment Minister Tony Baldry yesterday at the Association of District Councils' annual national symposium.

Mr Baldry told more than 200 council chiefs: 'It is very confusing for people that council tax bills are sent out by and paid to district councils when the bulk of the money is actually spent by county councils.

'Voters' messages of satisfaction of dissatisfaction will be clearer if there can be no confusion as to which tier of local government is responsible.

'If one can do a job with one layer of central support services rather than two, you will be able to concentrate more on front line services. People will be better served, and local government money will go further.

'If as many services as possible are under one roof there is tremendous scope for co-ordinating them to the advantage of local people. You can bring together housing and social services, so that the person who needs them does not get shunted from one set of officers to another, and you can co-ordinate development control and transport issues'.

Mr Baldry also underlined how 'getting the right area' is crucial in establishing new single tier councils.

'If people better identify with their local council then they will be more interested in what it is doing. Getting the right area is the key to having credible local leadership and the potential to have a real impact'.

He said the government and the Local Government Commission were encouraged by district councils' efforts in talking and working with their neighbours to come up with imaginative and flexible ideas for change. He warned council chiefs not to fall back on the status quo just because it was the 'least upsetting' option.

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