Right time for strategic alliance, says Leicestershire leader

Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, has said that ’the time has come to explore having a new council for Leicestershire’ in an attempt to not be overshadowed by the West Midlands.

Council leaders in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire have been discussing how they could join up as part of a strategic alliance, to counterbalance the growing power and influence of the West Midlands Combined Authority. Ruston has claimed that an unitary structure would reduce costs and improve services and proposals should be developed. He has written to Secretary of State James Brokenshire asking to meet and talk to him about the East Midlands plans.

Th council estimates that running one council, rather than the current eight councils providing council services across Leicestershire, could save £30 million a year by having fewer chief officers, senior staff, councillors and offices, with the money then being reinvested in services. Leicestershire County Council has saved £178 million since 2010 and needs to reduce costs by another £50 million over the next four years.

Ruston said: “It’s important that the East Midlands is not overshadowed by the West Midlands. We are simply losing out. I’ve been talking to other councils about how we make full use of powers over planning, transport and investment to maximise our collective clout. This is vital for Leicestershire’s economy – building the right skills, creating quality jobs and housing. As leaders, we need to get our act together and these discussions have sharpened the focus on local government structures and how complex they currently are.

“I believe the time has come to consider having a modern, progressive council for Leicestershire, to replace the county council and the seven district councils. Whilst I have my own preference of a single council with direct links to local communities through towns and parishes, there may be other options to consider. For now, we must accept that the two-tier local government system which remains in parts of England is broken, bureaucratic, old fashioned, confusing, inefficient and takes money away from front-line services. A unitary council would save money, as well as simplify and improve services.

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