No guarantees shake-up will shape up

THERE is no guarantee the proposed new structure of local government in Devon would shape up the way its supporters are suggesting, an East Devon councillor claimed today (Wednesday).

THERE is no guarantee the proposed new structure of local government in Devon would shape up the way its supporters are suggesting, an East Devon councillor claimed today (Wednesday).

But first Councillor Andrew Moulding, EDDC's portfolio holder resources, commented on Devon County Council's questioning of EDDC's arithmetic on the percentage of services that county currently delivers.

Mr Moulding said: "Devon is claiming in its publicity material that it delivers 85 percent of council services in Devon - the implication being that it is a small step for them to take over the remaining 15 percent."

He said EDDC disputed this logic, saying it did not give an accurate picture of actual services delivered.

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"For example, an expensive service such as education accounts for a great deal of local authority spending, but is still only one service delivered to that part of the community that uses state schools.

"Many of the services delivered by East Devon - for an average council tax of just £2.27 per week this year - are less expensive to run but may affect many more people. "In our latest leaflet for residents, we outline the dozens of services that East Devon delivers - many of them direct to the customer, such as roadside collection of recycling and waste, council tax and housing benefits, planning advice and decisions and council housing to name but a few.

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"Devon are making light of the massive task that would befall them if they had to take over the management of all the services delivered week in week out by EDDC and its seven neighbouring district councils in East Devon.

"It's impossible to run this massive range of services from county hall.

"This kind of over-simplification runs the risk of misleading residents into thinking the job would be easy. We are convinced that it would not."

Reminding residents how fast things can change after the Government grants permission for a unitary council, Mr Moulding used Northumberland and Durham as examples.

He said: "In terms of the way they engage with local people, the new unitary councils could differ radically from the structures originally approved by the Government - for whom high quality local engagement was a top priority.

"Experience in these other areas demonstrates there is no guarantee new unitary councils will retain the shape that people sign up for - and there is little the Government can do about it.

"So East Devon residents might want to ask themselves if it would be better to stick with what they know than an alternative that is a complete unknown quantity."

* The Boundary Committee is currently consulting the public on its recommendation for a giant unitary council for the whole of Devon. The closing date for comments is September 26.

EDDC is encouraging local people, businesses and organisations to get involved in the debate by writing to Max Caller, chairman of the Boundary Committee, local MPs, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and to Ben Bradshaw MP, Minister for the South West and Government Health Minister.

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