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Chief: Ministers must take the lead on reorganisation

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The government should show some leadership and “grasp” the issue of reorganisation in two-tier areas, according to the outgoing chief executive of Blackburn with Darwen BC.

The unitary is one of four councils that recently submitted a request to government to set up an East Lancashire unitary council.

Harry Catherall, who retires at the end of April, told LGC Lancashire CC was “too big” and should be split into three unitaries.

“I do not agree with the two-tier system anywhere in the country. I think the government should grasp it once and for all,” he said.

While the current government has given the go ahead to reorganisation where all partners agree, it has proven reluctant to force the issue if any object.

Mr Catherall said: “It needs government to make that decision because it’s Christmas and turkeys and all that.”

He described the two-tier system as “confusing and inefficient” and not understood, not only by the public, but also by “very experienced public servants”.

“I spend a lot of my time explaining to the NHS and public sector that to get upstream [and reduce demand] you need to engage with your district councils,” he said.

Mr Catherall was part of the senior team that oversaw Blackburn with Darwen’s unitarisation in 1998. However, he said the council was now “too small” to face the current challenges of austerity.

He said scrapping the two-tier system would save “significant resources” for local government but also the wider public sector by allowing for a “real place-based approach” to service delivery, stripping out any duplication.

“In local government itself it would save millions. It’s therefore wrong we’re not doing it already,” he said.

 

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