Fears mounting over unitary status bid

PUBLISHED: 02:19 07 December 2006 | UPDATED: 10:18 24 May 2010

REDUCED services or increased council tax - these are the two options to recover money if a unitary authority is created, according to UNISON. A Government white paper, released earlier this year, has invited authorities to bid for unitary status, and nee

REDUCED services or increased council tax - these are the two options to recover money if a unitary authority is created, according to UNISON.A Government white paper, released earlier this year, has invited authorities to bid for unitary status, and needs eight local authorities to come forward by January. UNISON spokesman Ken Oasgood said: "The bottom of the estimate for the cost of reorganisation is £20million, but it could be anything up to £40million. I can only see two ways of recovering that money and that's reduced services or an increase in council tax."A big organisation is difficult to contact and get answers from. It will end up as a remote body."The debate has even reached the Houses of Parliament. Speaking in the House of Commons this week, Wells MP David Heathcoat-Amory said: "I believe a unitary authority would create a remote, unwieldy and undemocratic structure. The costs of reorganisation would create another burden for the long-suffering council tax payers of Somerset."Councillors themselves have also hit out at Somerset's decision to bid for unitary authority status which, as the Somerset Mercury reported last week, could mean a raise of 20 per cent in council tax for residents in Sedgemoor. The Conservative members of the council have released a statement saying: "It has been proven that people who are served by huge unitary authorities are far less satisfied with the services they receive."If they were really interested in the best way to serve the people of Somerset, they would have consulted with the districts and explored all the ways forward."At a meeting last week the county council passed a motion to move forward with the bid. A total of 33 members voted for the proposal and 24 against. Council leader Cathy Bakewell said: "A unitary authority will deliver a less bureaucratic, more efficient and cost effective form of Government. It will maximise funding of local services to respond to the demands of local people."Sedgemoor District Council, which would be dissolved if a unitary authority is created, has called the motion 'a nonsensical bid'. Leader Duncan McGinty said: "We are appalled that the county council has pressed ahead with its bid. It has shown an unwillingness to work up any other option, preferring a hostile take-over bid against the organisations and communities that would be affected.

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