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West Sussex residents given say on unitary authority plans
West Sussex residents will be given their say on whether borough councils should be scrapped in favour of just one authority.
West Sussex County Council has agreed to begin a public debate on whether they would like to see an end of the current two-tier system of borough and county councils sharing services.
Backers of the move claim that having one authority would remove resident confusion over which council carries out which service and could save up to £20 million a year.
However councillors were also sceptical of the likelihood of any changes going ahead with a change in legislation and a shift in the mood within national government needed.
Councillors voted overwhelmingly in favour of an amended motion by Liberal Democrat group leader Dr James Walsh to begin a discussion on the possible change.
UKIP group leader Michael Glennon proposed a similar motion claiming that local government was “consuming too much”.
He cited the move to form a unitary in Wiltshire in July 2009 which is expected to save £20 million a year.
But not all councillors are supporting the proposition.
Bill Acraman, Conservative councillor for Worth Forest, said the current Government was “dead set against” creating any more local authorities anywhere in the country.
He said: “I don't see a lot of point in building a brick wall in order to bang our heads against it.
“I don't think this is the right time to do this.”
Gordon McAra, the Independent councillor for Midhurst, said: “I actually find the idea of West Sussex as a unitary authority a very scary idea.
“All the money and facilities concentrated into the hands of eight people is not good.
“The scale is too large.
“There is a demand for local government being closer to communities rather than further away.”
Council leader Louise Goldsmith said there was a need for a public debate on the issue but warned about the potential for years of disruption being divisive.
She said: “There is no legislation to make that happen now but sometime in the future there may well be.
“I think it's important to hear what the public have to say and what our district and borough councillors and town and parish councillors think.
“This is not a decision for the county council to arrogantly make without any reference or dialogue with our partners and residents.”