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East Sussex next to consider radical rehaul of council structure
5:10am Wednesday 26th February 2014 in News
Leading East Sussex councillors are “open to” a radical overhaul of the local government system - but say any changes will not be imminent.
Politicians from across the political spectrum in East Sussex say they would be open to discussions over the possible disbanding of the current two-tier system of borough, district and county councils in favour for a more efficient unitary authority.
Councillors warned having one authority for the whole of the county would be “wrong” because it would not serve residents.
The discussion over a possible change to a simpler one council for all needs system has been reignited after neighbouring West Sussex County Council started a public debate on the issue.
Labour councillor Jeremy Birch said: “If a Hastings resident has a planning application then they would have to travel 30 miles to Lewes just to hear it.
“It would be too remote, to travel 30 miles away would be wrong, it would mean local government is removed from the community.
“I would be quite happy to have more powers delegated to district and borough councils and I would be prepared to enter into a discussion for a smaller unitary consisting of the east of East Sussex.”
East Sussex County Council Liberal Democrat group leader David Tutt said the argument for unitary authorities remained “strong” as residents are confused by which is responsible for service under the current system of two levels of local government.
Coun Tutt said: “I wouldn’t be in favour of one unitary for Sussex, I think it would need to be three unitaries to cover East Sussex.
“We ran a campaign for an Eastbourne unitary in the mid-1990s and said there was strong support for that.
“I think it’s a long way off, the issue has not got the attention of the current Government and not something they would consider in this parliament but I believe these issues are cyclical and we have to be ready for when the idea comes back into favour.”
East Sussex County Council leader Keith Glazier said: “Once the General Election is out the way, all bets are off but nothing will happen before May 2015.
“I have not been approached by district or borough councillors to accelerate that conversation and we meet regularly.
“In the longer term, with the level of savings we are having to make, we might have to have that conversation but that is not a discussion for the here and now.”