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DOBSON CONFIRMS LABOUR COMMITMENT TO UNITARIES

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Shadow environment secretary Frank Dobson has reaffirmed Labour's support to unitary authorities in his first major...
Shadow environment secretary Frank Dobson has reaffirmed Labour's support to unitary authorities in his first major speech in his new post.

Speaking at the Association of County Councils annual conference in Leicester, he said there was still a chance for councils to have their say as Labour's local government consultation paper was not due for publication until February next year.

'There is no point in it being all cut and dried,' he said.

Ian Swithenbank, Association of County Councils Labour group leader, said he was reassured by Mr Dobson's promise that Labour, if elected, would not adopt a 'big bang' approach to any further reorganisation.

'The official figures show that for every £1 lost by local government in fraud, corruption and mismanagement, £60 is lost by central government, its agencies and quangos,' he said.

Mr Dobson confirmed that a Labour government would abolish compulsory competitive tendering but was likely to retain some reserve powers.

'We do want to get rid of CCT, but we also need to make sure that some of the discipline and changes in culture that have resulted from CCT remain,' he said.

Baroness Farrington said the issue was not what the Labour Party would do in the future but how it responded to reorganisation orders.

'If Mr Dobson had heard the views of Alan Atherton, he would have stated very clearly that these [compensation terms] are not acceptable to the members of the PLP,' she said.

'I have this fantasy of the boss of a regional office as a sort of neo-colonial governor - we need to steer clear of that.

'We will do our best to draw to the attention of various local communities that their MP, who is objecting to something happening to a local service, did actually vote for the local authority not to have the money to maintain the service.

'The odds are we will be voting against all or most of the orders. There is a saying 'once bitten, twice shy', and I have noticed the Tories being bitten.'

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