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REGIONAL RESTRUCTURE: DISTRICTS SUBMIT DETAILED PROPOSALS TO BOUNDARY COMMITTEE

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Cheshire's six district councils today pledged that local government would be re-energised and firmly rooted in loc...
Cheshire's six district councils today pledged that local government would be re-energised and firmly rooted in local communities if plans to establish three modern, all-purpose councils for the county were adopted.

The councils have submitted more detailed proposals to The Boundary Committee for England ahead of this autumn's referendum on a Regional Assembly for the North West. If there is a Yes vote, county and district councils will disappear, to be replaced by new councils responsible for all local services.

The Boundary Committee has been seeking views on three options for local government reorganisation. It will now consider all the submissions which have been sent to it by organisations and individuals, and will make final recommendations to the ODPM by 25 May for at least two options to appear on the ballot paper.

Peter Kent (leader of Crewe and Nantwich BC), said: 'This has been a unique and exciting period for all six councils. We have seized this opportunity to step back and take a completely fresh view of the way the excellent services we have in our areathe county can best be developed with local people and with other organisations for the future.

'We are determined that the people of Cheshire should have modern, dynamic, responsive and easy to understand councils. They must reflect local needs and local situations, and take advantage of the best new thinking across all the services that will be provided.

'We think this is a huge opportunity. We want to open up the processes of local government, to let local people see and really understand how things work, to have the flexibility to respond to different circumstances in different parts of the county but to have the capacity to provide the best value services.

'Local people need, and deserve, strong, capable, effective, convenient and responsive councils. Our three councils would be perfectly positioned to provide resources and leadership to local communities, and to reflect and respect local diver sity.'

The districts' latest submission pledges that three new councils would

-take a fresh approach local government;

-bring together services currently divided between county and districts;

-design services to meet the needs of individuals and communities;

-provide services at a local level, involving people more in planning those services;

-improve partnership opportunities and working arrangements between council services and other agencies;

-respond from the outset to the government's green paper on children's services, Every Child Matters;

-take advantage of the larger size and capacity of the three new councils;

-develop new management arrangements involving local people, elected members and council staff.

The three councils would also be in a good position to adopt new ideas such as the establishment of trusts (similar to health trusts) for children's and social care services, and 'extended schools' programmes, in which school premises and facilities are used more fully outside school hours. Partnerships on crime and safer communities, lifelong learning and health would also be at the top of the new councils' agenda.

Brian Silvester (leader of the opposition) said:

'The three all purpose councils will be significantly cheaper than the current two tier system; our proposed three councils would save£13m per year or 71p per week for every household in Cheshire based on the current cost of being in business'

'Working with strong, effective and representative partners locally is essential to the success of these new councils. They would have the ability to focus on the priorities of local communities - along with the capacity and experience to respond differently to a range of complex needs.

'A single, large, remote organisation would bear no relation to the communities it is supposed to serve and would be completely at odds with the need for truly representative, local government.'

In th eir submission the districts argue that a single council for the whole of Cheshire would lack community identity and would be remote from the electorate and local issues. A Cheshire-wide council would be the third largest in the country - only Birmingham and Leeds would have bigger populations, but living in a much smaller geographic area.

The districts' submission also states that, while they believe strongly that three councils offer the best solution for Cheshire, their second choice would be for two councils to be established, based on existing district councils.

Notes

-The six districts have proposed three 'modern Cheshire Councils':

-East Cheshire Council (bringing together Congleton BC with Macclesfield BC)

-Mid Cheshire Council (Crewe & Nantwich BC with Vale Royal BC)

-Chester and West Cheshire Council (Chester City Council with Ellesmere Port & Neston Borough Council)

-The Boundary Committee announced three options on 1 December 2003 for unitary authorities in Cheshire. These were:

-One council for the whole of Cheshire with a population of 673,800

-Two councils, East and West Cheshire, with populations of 318,800 and 355,000

-Three councils, East, Mid and Chester and West Cheshire, with populations of 240,800, 233,000 and 199,900

-A period of public consultation ends on February 23 2004. Responses submitted by local people and organisations will help inform the Boundary Committee's recommendations for at least two options to the ODPM, which will be submitted by 25 May. These options will form part of the referendum on a Regional Assembly for the North West, due to take place this autumn.

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