The decision on Exeter’s unitary status is a vindication of four years of campaigning for something the city really cares passionately about.
It cares because Exeter is a real place with a unique history, political character, identity, and regional role. It was a unitary authority for 800 years until 1974, whilst playing a powerful role within Devon for all that time - that is what will be restored from 2011.
Today’s priority is to build on Exeter’s strengths for future prosperity.
Exeter is a real place with a unique history, political character, identity, and regional role
The city is now one of the most economically dynamic and fast growing in the country, thanks to a decade of focussed city council leadership and strong partnerships.
Unitary status is a vital component in accelerating and sustaining that success, as the minister emphasised in her statement.
The centrepiece of Devon’s recent publicity has been the ludicrous assertion that Exeter’s council tax bills will rise by £203 on becoming unitary.
Of course, the financial climate is extremely challenging for all authorities and we have no illusions that tough decisions will need to be made –but significantly increasing council tax will not, and cannot, be one of them.
Assuming a fair deal on transfer of budgets, assets and liabilities from Devon, financial viability is assured.
Exeter currently levies the fourth lowest district council tax and our track record of low cost delivery of excellent services provides strong foundations for the creation of a lean, cost-effective new unitary.
Exeter is certainly not too small to be a successful unitary.
It has the necessary focus, scale, leadership and identity to be an excellent small unitary – alongside similarly-sized high performers like Hartlepool, Darlington, Bracknell Forest and Halton.
It will work in partnership with rural Devon, urban Plymouth and Torbay to deliver the right services, at the right scale to the right people.
Philip Bostock, chief executive, Exeter City Council.