In revised guidance, Mr Gummer has told the commission to give more weight to proposals emerging as a result of local consensus and has re-emphasised the benefits of replacing the existing two tier system of counties and districts with single tier unitary authorities.
Mr Gummer said: 'The principles behind the review remain exactly the same, to secure effective local government reflecting the interests of local people.
'Speeding up the commission's work will do much to counter uncertainty about the future and so ensure effective provision of local services.
'The commission will continue to look at the shire counties area by area, but the length of each review will be shortened.
'However, because the views of local people are of paramount importance, the two month period for public consultation on proposals must remain'.
For future reviews, the commission will be asked to start and finish the review in each area sooner, to carry out more reviews simultaneously and to draft its reports more quickly. Extra resources will be provided.
Mr Gummer said: 'To help the commission meet their new deadline I encourage all those involved in local government to discuss options for change from day one of a review.
'I have therefore revised the guidance to make it clear that proposals that are put forward by a group of local authorities, and which may include agreed mergers of districts or divisions of counties, will be the most promising starting point for the commission.
'I have also taken this opportunity to ensure there is no uncertainty over the advantages of unitary authorities, on co-operation between authorities for the provision of services and also on bringing accountability for those for those services as close to local people as possible.
'Local government has a right to look forward to a period of certainty and stability after the review of the shires has been completed. I will only be prepared to initiate further reviews in exceptional circumstances.
'We have already said that we intend to ask the commission to look at the boundaries of metropolitan areas after it has completed its shire reviews. The acceleration of the commission's timetable will, of course, mean that the shire reviews will now be over earlier.
'The commission will be able to review metropolitan areas where there is pressure for change - such as Southport - as soon as the shire review is completed.