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COUNTY POLLS SHOW PUBLIC DIVIDED ON REORGANISATION

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People in Durham and Derbyshire prefer two tier local government to unitary councils but Cleveland residents prefer...
People in Durham and Derbyshire prefer two tier local government to unitary councils but Cleveland residents prefer handing county services to the four districts, according to polls published this week. Research by MORI for the Local Government Commission on its proposals for the three areas could determine which new structures the commission recommends. Following an announcement that the government would speed up and redirect the review, the commission stressed that local people's wishes remain 'paramount'.

Results from Derbyshire undermine claims by local Conservative MPs that the commission's recommendation of two unitary councils would prove unacceptable to local people.

The status quo is favoured by most residents (39%) except in Derby where the largest number (21%) support the commission's proposal. In Durham 56% of people back no change.Unusually, districts now support the status quo in reaction to a proposal for two councils for the area.

In Cleveland 31% prefer four unitary councils, but 21% backed the status quo. Out of a total of seven options, 16% favoured a unitary county; the same proportion did not know which was the best. The Association of District Councils welcomed MORI's findings. It said 65% of those expressing an opinion in the three review areas favour the principle of unitary local government. Three quarters of residents in Cleveland back the principle, 54% in Derbyshire and 39% in Durham.

Even though MORI briefed respondents on the likely costs of change, only 35% spoke in favour of the status quo, the ADC said. Cheaper county level unitary authorities were rejected, it said. But the Association of County Councils said the research showed the case for change had not been made. ACC Secretary Robin Wendt said people had stated they did not want to pay for reorganisation through higher tax bills.
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