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Big cost-cutting shake up for West Sussex councils proposed
4:30am Tuesday 11th February 2014 in News
Councillors are calling for the end of a “confusing” two-tier local government system.
West Sussex county councillor James Walsh is calling on the council’s leader to help abolish the county council and district council system currently in place.
He wants a committee to be formed to look into the possibility of creating one or two unitary authorities in West Sussex and to push the Government to help the proposal become a reality.
The Liberal Democrat leader has tabled a motion that will be discussed at this week’s full council meeting.
Dr Walsh told The Argus that the move could save tens of millions of pounds and could be achieved within three years.
He said that the change would mainly hit the top level of management in councils, including chief executives, as well as duplicate services such as human resources and legal services.
The current two-tier system sees council responsibilities split between the county council and district councils.
Dr Walsh proposes that West Sussex be governed by one council taking care of it all – or for West Sussex to be split into two council areas with two unitary authorities. This could see one council for coastal residents and one for people living north of the South Downs.
The move is also being supported by UKIP county leader Mike Glennon, who has tabled a similar motion as a way for the authority to meet its multi-million-pound saving objectives.
Dr Walsh said: “Fifteen years ago I was on the other side of this debate, arguing against a unitary authority but I have completely changed my mind in the past two years. The big driver in this change is the need to save money and the need to remove wasteful services.
“There is also confusion among residents about which council carries out which service.”
Adur District Council leader Neil Parkin said: “I know it would be akin to turkeys voting for Christmas but I am totally in favour of it because I think it would be better for the people.
He added: “The only drawback would be if you created a coastal authority you would combine all the areas of West Sussex while the northern areas would be very wealthy in comparison, which could make things awkward and something would have to be done about that imbalance.”
Worthing Borough Council leader Paul Yallop said he was not totally against the proposal but would want to see the details of any proposal.
He said: “West Sussex County Council has no statutory power to change local government structure, that’s a job for Westminster.”