Single unitary councils would save most money say researchers

This post is from November 2016 but is reprinted here due to its topicality. Given LEP power-grabbing and “Greater Exeter” and “Golden Triangle” options, our district council’s plan to move to Honiton looks questionable to say the least.

Should any of the above options pan out, even the current bases at Sidmouth and Exmouth (plus changing Manstone depot to part-office) seems grandiose!

“Creating 27 unitary councils across the whole of England could save as much as £2.9bn, according to an independent analysis of local government reorganisation options undertaken for the County Councils Network.

The report by consultants EY examined six different single and two-tier governance scenarios for county and district authorities, using existing county boundaries. Based on the analysis of national data, EY found that creation of unitaries along county boundaries could save between £2.37bn and £2.86bn over five years, and average up to £106m per county. The single unitary option has the shortest payback period, generating savings within two years and two months, according to the review.

Among the other options examined was a move to create two unitary authorities per county, which would establish 54 councils.

Under this proposal, savings worth £1.17bn and £1.7bn would be made in a five-year timeframe, only around 59% of the saving of the proposal to create unitaries along current boundaries.

A third approach considered abolishing county and district authorities and creating three unitaries per county. However, the creation of 81 new councils countrywide could result in a net cost to the taxpayer of £33m over five years, although the range could also include a saving of £526m, dependent on how senior management and councillors are structured across the authorities. Whatever transpires, our council serms hell-bent on the most expensive option:

The review also considered reforming the current two-tier system through merging districts to reduce the average number in a county area from 7.4 to 3. Such a scenario could make savings of between £531m and £839m over five years.

A further scenario to create three unitary authorities and a combined authority, which would then deliver major services like adult social care, children’s social care and transport, was likely to cost between £36m and £366m over five years. Such an approach has been considered in areas such as Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, but EY highlighted the risks of this ‘untried and untested’ model of reorganisation. …”