Election preparations are often accompanied by inertia. Government doesn’t have time to implement policy changes; the civil service and local government are reluctant to commit too much energy in case a new government rips out the page and starts again. John Denham is remarkably unconcerned by this convention, it seems.
The Department for Communities & Local Government’s decision to create unitaries in Exeter and Norwich was pushed right to the wire.
It was a strange battle to pick. The Conservative Party has committed to reversing the decision should it enter government - a distinct possibility if creation of the new councils is delayed by a likely legal challenge.
The government’s intention may have been decisive action. For local government it means yet more uncertainty
Emma Maier, editor of LGC
Exeter and Norwich argue that unitary status will put them in a prime position to promote economic prosperity. But Devon and Norfolk are left as ‘doughnut councils’ with significant cities extracted, posing a considerable challenge.
Perhaps most extraordinary was the government’s decision to go against its own guidelines on efficiency and value for money - and to overrule the permanent secretary.
The inevitable perception of political motivation, and the cost that will be involved in this tennis match, can only dent public trust.
Nothing divides LGC’s readers like the unitary versus two-tier local government debate. And with good reason.
It is not a discussion to rush. The government’s intention may have been decisive action. For local government it means yet more uncertainty.