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The Local Government Commission has recommended 12 more councils should take over county services by 1997, precisel...
The Local Government Commission has recommended 12 more councils should take over county services by 1997, precisely as predicted in LGC last week.

A government suggestion to create two new unitary councils in north Kent out of four districts has been endorsed, despite Gillingham and Gravesham BCs' rejection of any merger with Rochester City Council and Dartford BC.

The other unitaries announced by commission chairman Sir David Cooksey are Blackburn, Blackpool, Halton, Northampton, Peterborough, Thurrock, Warrington and Wrekin.

Commission chief executive Bob Chilton said Gravesham and Dartford should merge to cope with Ebbsfleet channel tunnel terminal. He said Rochester and Gillingham already formed 'an urban identity of 250,000 people'.

As reported in LGC last week, the commission has rejected the case for nine councils put forward by the government.

Environment secretary John Gummer could reject commission proposals when he receives final recommendations in December. But he will not be able to create any without a commission recommendation.

Mr Chilton said the claims of the county towns of Norwich, Exeter and Gloucester were rejected largely because of their importance to their counties. Northampton was an exception because 'it was operating on a regional and national scale that transcended the county'.

Mr Chilton said Norwich might have achieved the same level of autonomy from the county if it had based its case on a wider boundary.

Warrington, Peterborough, Wrekin and Halton passed the commission's test because they could demonstrate a different identity from their counties.

Basildon was rejected because of its relatively weak financial position and the effect on the county of taking three districts out of Essex.

Most councils defined as those 'adjoining large urban centres' were rejected. Broxtowe, Gedling, Rushcliffe and Spelthorne were unable to demonstrate a sufficiently distinctive sense of community.

However, Thurrock 'had done a better job of networking' and had a greater affinity with London than Essex.

The 'traditional county' of Huntingdonshire did not possess a sufficient sense of community and its removal endangered the viability of Cambridgeshire shorn of Peterborough, Mr Chilton said.

Blackburn and Blackpool demonstrated strong community identity and Mr Chilton said Lancashire CC was also big enough to accommodate their absence.

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