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CURRY SMALL TALK LETS SLIP BIG PLANS

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New unitary councils serving 50,000, 60,000 or 70,000 people were 'very unlikely' to prove viable, Local Government...
New unitary councils serving 50,000, 60,000 or 70,000 people were 'very unlikely' to prove viable, Local Government Minister David Curry told Conservative council members last week. Speaking at a Wednesday evening fringe meeting of the party conference, Mr Curry appeared to contradict existing government policies towards local government. He said that most districts would have to merge with their neighbours before they were given unitary status. There are 59 districts with a population of less than 71,000. They include Rutland DC, which has fewer than 37,000 people, but has long campaigned to take over county services. Environment Secretary John Gummer has so far ruled out any reference to population size in determining where the boundaries of unitary councils should be drawn. Mr Curry said he disliked the concept of transitionary shadow councils. 'If we can find a way through the legal thicket to do without them we will try to'.

He said he disliked the uniform business rate which the government introduced to prevent councils taxing the local economy to keep down domestic taxes. 'I'm glad it wasn't me who did that', Mr Curry said. Councils controlled by all parties complain the new system undermines local democracy and prevents them from encouraging new businesses to set up in their area.

Mr Curry called the transfer of undertakings regulations, which have interrupted the government's programme of contracting out council services, 'an absolute pain'.
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