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Five districts ready merger plans

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Proposals for a five-council merger are due to be unveiled this week but plans to become a unitary are not expected to be forthcoming at this stage despite a willingness to explore that option.

Districts in the east of Kent are set to unveil a business case for merger on Wednesday. 

Merging Ashford BC, Canterbury City Council, and Dover, Shepway, and Thanet DCs would create an authority with a population of almost 650,000.

A ‘frequently asked questions’ bulletin from the councils said of unitary reorganisation: “We would welcome the opportunity to look at a possible redistribution of functions but this is not within the gift of the five councils and our focus is on what is currently possible between us.”

In their statement of intent published last July, the five districts said the merger would bring better value for money.

It is unclear how any merger would affect the rest of Kent. County leader Paul Carter (Con) has previously said he would be willing to engage with the five districts provided they are not proposing to break up the county.

Sevenoaks DC’s leader Peter Fleming (Con) told LGC: “In the west of the county we don’t really look towards east Kent or have much in common with districts to the east.

“The Sevenoaks district situation is we have a border with eight local authorities, only four of them are Kentish.

“We are now financially self-sufficient from direct government grant so have no financial driver to go down a similar route… any reorganisation would be a massive distraction.”


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