'I have decided to accept the commission's final recommendations for Derbyshire that Derby City be given unitary authority status and that the existing two-tier structure be retained in the rest of the county.
'The case for a unitary Derby City is compelling. Derby is a former county borough and was responsible for the broad range of local government services prior to 1974. It has a population of 227,000 and is larger than many metropolitan boroughs and London boroughs. The commission found that about two thirds of local people identified strongly with the City area.
'The case for a unitary Stoke is strong. It is a former county borough with a large and concentrated population in excess of 250,000, and the Commission has identified a strong sense of community identity within the City Council area. I agree with the commission that the remainder of the county outside Stoke, with a county council and eight districts, will continue to be fully viable.
'In the case of Wiltshire, I have decided to accept the commission's recommendation that there should be a unitary authority for the present borough area of Thamesdown (Swindon) and that there should be no change to the existing two-tier arrangements in the rest of the County of Wiltshire.
'The case for a unitary Thamesdown is strong. It is a significant urban area, with a population in excess of 170,000, where the commission identified a strong and distinct sense of community identity and an independent economy. I agree with the commission's conclusion that a unitary authority for Thamesdown would offer the opportunity to improve the co-ordination, effectiveness and delivery of services and facilitate the co- ordination of these services with other public bodies, the business community and the voluntary sector.
'For East Sussex I have decided to accept the commission's recommendation that a unitary authority should be created by merging the present borough areas of Brighton and Hove, and that there should be no change to the existing two-tier arrangements in the rest of the county.
'While I recognise the feeling in Brighton and Hove of separate identities, in practical terms they form a continuous conurbation. I agree with the commission's conclusion that the balance of advantage lies with the establishment of a single unitary authority, which would have physical coherence, be of sufficient size and compactness to be self sufficient and accessible, and have a good infrastructure.
'I am satisfied that such an authority would be well placed to deliver the full range of local services.
'On Devon, I accept the commission's recommendation of unitary authorities for Plymouth and Torbay, with the continuation of the two-tier structure elsewhere in Devon, subject to any review of Exeter which I might ask the commission to conduct.
'Both Plymouth and Torbay are former county boroughs which have previously been responsible for the broad range of local government services. Plymouth, with a population of over 250,000, is the fourth most populous non-metropolitan district. It is a significant and well defined urban area which is distinct from the neighbouring areas.
'For Torbay, whilst its population is smaller (around 120,000), it is one of the largest resorts in Great Britain. Like Plymouth, it has a distinctive identity from the surrounding rural areas, reflecting its relatively self-sufficient economy and low level of interdependence with the rest of Devon.
'The commission found strong local support for a unitary authority for Torbay, including from business and other local bodies. I consider that the remainder of the county will retain its viability.
'I have decided to accept the commission's proposal that Nottingham City should gain unitary status.
'The City has a substantial population (285,000); it is the third largest non-metropolitan district in England and is larger than most existing metropolitan and London boroughs. It was formerly a county borough. The City is distinct from most of the rest of the county and has specific needs which I believe could be more effectively addressed by a unitary City authority.
'The commission found that the majority of local people in Nottingham identify strongly with the City.
'As I announced on 2 March, some of the arguments the commission put forward in favour of a unitary authority for Nottingham could equally be applied to the neighbouring districts of Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe. I am considering whether to refer these three districts to the commission for a further review so that the case for unitary authorities in the greater Nottingham area can be thoroughly explored. Subject to this consideration, I accept the case for retaining the existing two- tier structure in the rest of the county.
'For Essex, I have decided to accept the commission's recommendation that Southend-on-Sea should become a unitary authority, with the rest of the county remaining two-tier.
'The commission also recommended that Southend's boundaries should be extended to include Southend Airport. I think this needs further exploration and I may ask the commission in due course to look at the matter again.
'There is a strong case for a unitary Southend, given its population size and density, the high level of community identity with the borough council area which the commission found, and its former status as a county borough. I accept the commission's view that a unitary Southend could provide the broad range of local government services within its area in a way which is effective, convenient, accessible and responsive to local needs.
'The commission also recommended significant boundary changes between Basildon, Brentwood and Rochford. In my statement to the House on 2 March, I said that I had in mind to include the districts of Thurrock and Basildon among those where I shall be asking the commission to carry out fresh reviews. I have accordingly decided it would not be appropriate to reach a decision on the proposed boundary changes affecting Basildon until the outcome of those reviews is known.
HEREFORD & WORCESTER
'In the case of Hereford & Worcester, I have decided to accept the commission's recommendation that there should be a unitary authority for the area of the 'traditional' Herefordshire, and that the existing two-tier structure should be retained in the 'traditional' area of Worcestershire.
(The 'traditional' area of Herefordshire comprises the areas of Hereford City, South Herefordshire, the western part of Malvern Hills and Leominster except for the Tenbury area. The 'traditional' area of Worcestershire comprises the districts of Wyre Forest, Bromsgrove, Redditch, Worcester City and Wychavon, with a new district to be established covering the eastern part of the Malvern Hills and the area of Tenbury.)
'Prior to the reorganisation of local government in 1974, Herefordshire and Worcestershire were two separate counties for both administrative and ceremonial purposes. The merger in 1974 has proved to be very unpopular and the evidence presented to the commission suggests that the merger have not earned the loyalty of the local people.
'I consider that the Worcestershire element of the present county, with approximately 77 percent of the existing county's population, would be viable. I also agree with the commission about the viability of a unitary Herefordshire. A number of services such as education and social services are currently run on the basis of the 'Herefordshire' boundary and the commission are satisfied that the full range of services can be provided by a unitary Herefordshire.
'I also accept the commission's recommendation for new electoral arrangements for the new unitary Herefordshire and the remaining county and districts in Worcestershire.
'I am minded to accept the commission's recommendation that there should be a unitary authority for the city of Leicester. It has a long history of unitary government and there seems to be strong support for a return to that status. Leicester is the second largest of the non-metropolitan districts and I believe that it will be able to fulfil the functions of a unitary authority effectively and conveniently. I also believe that the reduced county council will be viable.
'Having weighed all the arguments, I am minded to accept the commission's recommendation that there should be a unitary authority in Rutland. The strength of local identity is very clear and there is definite support for a unitary authority.
'There are, however, understandable concerns about whether Rutland could provide effective local government, given its small size, and about thefinancial implications of reorganisation.
'Before an Order implementing change for Rutland is introduced, I will want to be satisfied that the authority has been able to make good practical arrangements for local services; that the authority have fully assessed the overall financial implications; that the costs can be paid for within the same financial arrangements and constraints that apply to other reorganised authorities. I expect that at least for some services, some form of joint working may be needed.
'Having weighed all the arguments, I have accepted part of the commission's structural recommendations - namely unitary authorities for Portsmouth and Southampton - but rejected the recommendation for the New Forest so that it, and the rest of the county of Hampshire, will remain two-tier.
'There is a strong case for unitary authorities for the cities of Portsmouth and Southampton. Both are former county boroughs with a history of unitary local government and are amongst the largest, and most densely populated, non-metropolitan district councils.
Portsmouth and Southampton, with populations of around 180,000 and 200,000 respectively, are comparable in this respect with the urban unitary authorities in London and the metropolitan counties. There is support for unitary status locally, and the city councils are confident about their ability to deliver services, establishing where necessary joint arrangements with each other and with the county council.
'However, the position in New Forest is much less clear. Whilstis one of the larger non-metropolitan districts in terms of population (around 160,000), it is a largely rural area. It has no tradition of unitary local government and popular opinion is finely balanced. Doubts have been expressed about the fragmentation of services in a strongly rural district which has no large town to give it focus and identity. I have decided, therefore, not to accept the commission's recommendation for a unitary authority for the New Forest.
'Having weighed all the arguments, I have accepted part of the commission's structural recommendations - namely unitary authorities for Bournemouth and Poole - but rejected its proposal that there should be two unitary authorities in the rest of the county. Outside the two boroughs, the county will remain two- tier.
'There is a strong case for unitary authorities in Bournemouth and Poole, which is now also accepted by the county council. The two boroughs are distinct within the largely rural county and each has a strong sense of community identity. The population of each is already large and I have little doubt that they would each be able to provide all local authority services, especially with further growth expected in Poole.
'The position outside Bournemouth and Poole is much less clear. Community identity in the area tends to have a very local emphasis and popular opinion is finely balanced. Doubts have also been expressed about the viability of thetwo largely rural authorities.
'On Berkshire, having weighed all the arguments, I have largely accepted the commission's final recommendations for the county's future structure, but with a modification. I accept the recommendation that Reading, Newbury, Slough, and Wokingham should become unitary authorities on the boundaries of the present district areas.
'However, I propose to modify the recommendation that a unitary authority be created based on a merger of the district areas of Bracknell Forest and Windsor and Maidenhead, and instead create two unitary authorities based on the existing district areas. The present two-tier structure in Bershire will therefore be replaced by six unitary authorities based on existing district areas.
'The commission found a strong and well supported case for an all unitary structure in Berkshire from the outset of the review. The case for unitary status for Reading, Newbury and Slough is particularly strong; Reading is a former county borough with a a predominantly urban and distinct character; Slough is a densely populated urban area which is a significant industrial and retail centre with an infrastructure to reflect this; Newbury is a predominantly rural area quite distinct from the rest of the county, relating more to areas in neighbouring counties.
'While there was less unanimity about the best structure for the rest of the county area, on balance I consider that unitary status for each of the remaining districts (Wokingham, Bracknell Forest and Windsor & Maidenhead) will on balance best serve the needs of community identity and effective local government, and that unitary authorities based on the existing districts are capable of delivering the full range of services. The county's geography, coupled with the marked diversity across its area, give it a particularly strong case for an all unitary structure.
'The county area for Berkshire will be retained, but it will no longer have a county council.
'I have now announced my decisions on all the commission's structural recommendations. I am still considering a number of outstanding recommendations on other matters, and will announce my decisions on these in due course.'