Fate of councils delayed

THE fate of nine Devon councils has been put back by nearly half-a-year - because of a legal challenge by East Devon District Council.

THE fate of nine Devon councils has been put back by nearly half-a-year - because of a legal challenge by East Devon District Council.

The Boundary Committee propose scrapping Devon's councils - replacing them with a unitary authority, running all services except in Torbay and Plymouth.

But this week Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State for communities and local Government said the deadline for the Boundary Committee to give its final recommendations be moved from February 13 to July 15.

Now it is likely that the earliest date for the creation of a single unitary authority will be 2011.

Senior Civil Servant Paul Rowsell, of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, wrote to Archie Gall, head of the committee, and said the date was put back because of the legal challenge and subsequent appeal later this month by EDDC.

They claim the committee didn't consult enough on the proposals.

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Mr Rowsell said: "The Secretary of State recognises that in the circumstances there is a case for some extension ...

"Having considered the judgment of Mr Justice Cranston in the case of East Devon District Council v The Boundary Committee, the Committee would not be able to meet the revised deadline of 13 February to submit its advice...

"An extension of five months to 15 July 2009 would allow for significant further consultations..."

The Leader of Devon County Council, Brian Greenslade said: "In the current economic climate, the continued uncertainty is unhelpful and we need to find an early resolution.

"This delay almost certainly means that the implementation of any eventual unitary recommendations will be delayed to April 2011. The County Council's elections in June this year continue as planned."

However Sara Randall Johnson the leader of East Devon District Council, who have been criticised for a legal challenge that could cost �250,000 of taxpayers money, took the decision as a vindication of their actions.

She said: "This completely vindicates our decision to challenge the Government and the Boundary Committee on the degree of consultation...

"...the Judge made it clear that further consultation should be carried out before the Boundary Committee finalised its recommendations.

"When you are determined to stand by a point of principle, and to protect the future of democracy in Devon, you have to be brave - and you have to be prepared to put your money where your mouth is."


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