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COMMISSION DEFIES PRESSURE FOR UNITARIES

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The Local Government Commission has confirmed its promise to back public support for two tiers despite government p...
The Local Government Commission has confirmed its promise to back public support for two tiers despite government pressure for unitary councils across the country.

LGC has learnt that the recommendations to be made by the commission next month will propose the status quo for parts of three counties. But the commission has put off controversial decisions in another three areas.

Unitary solutions have been recommended for public consultation in seven areas.

During a two-day meeting last week only Cumbria of the counties to be decided in June was not discussed.

The draft recommendation will be published for public consultation between 10 and 17 June, with every household in 11 areas receiving a leaflet listing possibilities for reorganisation and stating the commission's preferred option.

The three with status quo recommendations are Kent, Leicester and Hampshire.

The commission is proposing two unitaries for Kent, one based on Gravesham and Dartford and the other a merger of Rochester upon Medway and Gillingham. The rest of the county will remain unchanged.

The two-tier structure in Leicestershire should remain intact, says the commission, apart from two unitaries based on Leicester City and Rutland.

In Hampshire, Southampton and Portsmouth will be put forward for unitary status.

Buckinghamshire will also be canvassed on status quo for part of the county but an option for three unitaries based on Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and Wycombe is the preferred option.

Decisions on Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Devon and Suffolk have been deferred. The Nottinghamshire situation is said to have been confused by Chancellor and local MP Kenneth Clarke's demand for a unitary Rushcliffe.

Staffordshire has also created problems. The districts' preferred option was for six unitaries but they could not agree on boundaries.

A four-unitary option for Suffolk is believed to be on the table but this would include merging Waverney and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, which has not yet been discussed.

Cambridgeshire would be divided into three unitaries based on Huntingdonshire and the cities of Peterborough and Cambridge.

Three unitaries are recommended for Oxfordshire, for the city, the north and the south. Two unitaries will be recommended for Bedfordshire and four will be recommended for Berkshire with extended boundaries for Reading and Newbury. The Newbury boundary change would encroach on Hampshire.

In two counties the commission appears to have accepted proposals for unitaries to cross existing boundaries. Cheshire is being recommended for five unitaries and Lancashire for eight.

It is understood that the commission will meet next week to discuss the bulk of submissions made on 29 April.

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