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Unitary war rages on

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Doomed districts are set to continue their legal battle with the government over the imposition of unitary councils, despite the failure of the judicial review attempting to halt the process.

Doomed districts are set to continue their legal battle with the government over the imposition of unitary councils, despite the failure of the judicial review attempting to halt the process.

Of the two councils that took the High Court action, Congleton BC indicated it expects to appeal, but Shrewsbury & Atcham BC said it will only continue the process if it accrues no additional cost. Both already face legal costs bills of some£200,000.

A spokesman for Shrewsbury & Atcham said: "You have to be sensitive about this - this is public money. There's a hope that other authorities will come behind the appeal."

As LGC went to press on Tuesday, representatives of a number of councils considering mounting judicial reviews were still meeting to determine if they could co-ordinate action which stood a chance of success.

Shrewsbury & Atcham and Congleton had argued that communities and local government secretary Hazel Blears had no power to conduct the unitary process since the Local Government & Public Involvement in Health bill is not yet law. They claimed the unitary bids did not meet the government's criteria of demonstrating a broad cross section of support.

AlthoughMr JusticeUnderhillruled Ms Blears had acted within her powers, he granted the councils leave to appeal.

Devon CC was due this week to apply to the High Court for judicial review of Exeter City Council's unitary bid. The county argues that stakeholder opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to the city leavingDevon.

Districs inDurhamand Wiltshire, which have also threatened judicial review of county unitary plans, said they were considering their next move, as was Bedfordshire CC which hopes to prevent itself being abolished as two unitary
councils are carved from its area.

But, in a joint statement, Northumberland districts said they did not envisage their challenge progressing.

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