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Letter to Editor: Harlow Council and reform

News / Mon 2nd Nov 2020 at 05:20pm

Sir,

ESSEX would not be ‘ahead of the game’ in this. Many county areas have successfully formed Unitary Councils covering the services of what was once a County Council  and various District and Borough Councils.

Multiple Councils are one of the most in inefficient ways to deliver Local Government Services.

What Private Sector organisation would have multiple Head Offices with multiple Chief Executives and teams of senior officers.

In practice many smaller councils are already working together to reduce this level of upper management and save money for Council Tax payers. 

In general the major objection to this is from elected Councillors as there will be considerably less of these when a new Unitary Council is formed.

Also the option for a councillor serving on both a District and a County Council (two sets of allowances) is removed, understandably not a popular option for Councillors! 

Many (I would risk suggesting most) Council Tax payers refer to ‘The Council’ without always recognising which Council provides which services they are concerned with or complaining about.

Put Parish/Town Councils into the mix and how many Councils and Councillors are covering a particular Council Tax payer. 

If you want a good example of how this can work and the financial efficiencies that can be achieved look at Dorset.

Mrs D Wiltshire

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2 Comments for Letter to Editor: Harlow Council and reform:

tenpin
2020-11-02 19:59:02

I suspect that Mrs Wiltshire and those supporting her point of view have never worked in Local Government and have no real insight in to the subject. Creating larger authorities leads to amongst other things, a loss of accountability and decisions being made by people who have no knowledge of a community or area. Take Epping Forest DC for example, which covers an area of some 120 square miles (which is nowhere near as big as the size of authorities being touted for change). Here you will have councillors living for example in Chigwell, making decisions which affect residents in Sawbridgeworth, Fyfield, Waltham Abbey and Epping to name just a few areas. They will have no idea of how their decisions will affect the day to day lives of residents living in those towns. How would we feel if Councillors in say Bishops Stortford were making decisions affecting Harlow. It is bad enough already that so many decisions are made at county Hall. What should happen is that more services are decentralised from Essex County Council to District Councils. As for Dorset, I wonder if residents across the county were asked before changes were made?

kthe5
2020-11-02 22:39:47

So many opinions presented as fact with no supporting evidence. Restisting the temptation to counter every statement I'll try just these two: "Also the option for a councillor serving on both a District and a County Council (two sets of allowances) is removed, understandably not a popular option for Councillors! " The insinuation being that reducing the number of councillors will save lots of money as less will be spent on allowances. How much is spent on allowances and what could be saved? Harlow Council helpfully post the Payment of Members Allowances for every year going back to 2012/13. The latest total of all allowances is just under £200K. Each councillor gets a standard £4,485, with the leader, deputy etc getting extra. I couldn't find what ECC councillors currently get (I didn't look too hard) but in 2015/16 they were getting about £12K as standard. Again the leader, deputy etc get more. These councillors are not in it for the money, that's for sure. "If you want a good example of how this can work and the financial efficiencies that can be achieved look at Dorset." Sure. From 2018, during the transisition period: https://www.publicsectorexecutive.com/Public-Sector-News/dorset-council-merger-set-up-could-cost-an-extra-400k-in-temp-staff An /extra/ £400K had to be found on top of whatever the existing costs were. This is on top of the redundancy costs for the various executives (not councillors) which was almost £1M. The Taxpayers Alliance has showm that ECC has the highest paid executives of any council, so expect the cost of redundancy to be much higher than that of Dorset.

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