Unitary battle between county and district continues

PUBLISHED: 13:58 13 August 2008 | UPDATED: 10:59 17 June 2010

THE GLOVES are off in the battle over whether a unitary council for Devon should be created to replace the present two-tier system of Devon County Council and eight district councils.

THE GLOVES are off in the battle over whether a unitary council for Devon should be created to replace the present two-tier system of Devon County Council and eight district councils.

This week DCC firmly hit back at claims made in East Devon District Council's newsletter East Devon extra, which covers Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary and surrounding towns and villages, that the county council is wrong to say it provides more than 85 percent of all local government services in Devon.

DCC dismisses the claim as naïve and unnecessary and Councillor John Smith, DCC executive member for children and young people's services, said: "This just shows how little the district council understands about big budgets and big services, and how naïve they are to the responsibilities that come with delivery of these successful services."

It says EDDC's newsletter states if people ignore the spending DCC passports on to schools the figure is much lower than 85 percent.

Mr Smith said: "While it is true that the dedicated schools' grant is ring-fenced and the management of individual schools is dealt with locally by school governors, the county council's role in relation to schools goes way beyond passporting Government funding.

"There is a raft of statutory duties and responsibilities DCC has: from deciding how much funding schools, pre-schools, and pupil referral units are allocated, and agreeing funding with schools forums; to monitoring school budgets to ensure they balance, and working with schools when they are having difficulties balancing budgets; to supporting schools and challenging them, and occasionally intervening to help them meet local challenges.

"We have a statutory duty to plan school places, looking at student demographics and through our admissions function, plan responsibly to ensure schools are running to capacity."

He listed other responsibilities relating to linking schools with other educational bodies, enabling children with special educational needs to get to school safely and have appropriate support while there, and assist those eligible for home to school transport.

"This year's net revenue budget for local government services indicates that DCC is actually responsible for providing 89 percent of all local government services to communities across Devon," he added.

"We believe, in light of the current Boundary Committee review of local government arrangements in Devon, that a single unitary authority that is responsible for 100 percent of the local government services delivered through community boards in each of our 28 coastal and market towns, plus a City Board with greater responsibilities in Exeter, would bring about significant service improvements and savings to council tax payers.

"Breaking up Devon into multiple unitary councils will only serve to cost council taxpayers more, and make services more expensive by losing economies of scale."

* Read EDDC's response below

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