Fringe Box



Letter: Not One Unitary Authority But Three Would Be More Efficient

Published on: 10 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 10 Jul, 2020

From Brian Creese

chairman of the Guildford Labour Party

In response to: Surrey County Council Faces Battle in Bid to Scrap Borough and District Councils

Anyone paying attention to the signals from central government will not be surprised at Surrey County Council looking seriously at transition to a unitary authority.

Surrey has a two- or even three-tier system, the county council with 11 boroughs and districts underneath. In some areas there are also parish and even town councils. Powers are shared, divided and in some cases, argued over.

But few will argue that a multitude of councils and councillors is the most efficient or effective method of local government.

The present set–up in Surrey means there are 12 council leaders, 12 chief executives, 12 civic centres, dozens of deputies and more than 500 councillors. This excludes the parishes and six town councils.

Bizarrely, several county councillors are also district councillors and a few are on the parish or town council as well. All told, more than 1,000 councillors for slightly fewer than 1.2 million residents.
The Labour Party in Surrey has long argued for a unitary structure for the county but would oppose the transition to one mega-authority.

Guildford Labour advocates three unitary councils, supporting a Middlesex and Surrey Borders Council, combining Woking with Guildford and Waverley to create a Surrey Hills (West) Council and an East Surrey Council comprising Epsom and Ewell, Reigate and Banstead, Mole Valley and Tandridge.

Such a structure would be more transparent, less expensive to run and would make geographical sense with no area being too far away from the authority. Voters would know who is responsible for every area of council responsibility.

We very much hope that Tim Oliver and the ruling Tory group will talk to Labour and other opposition parties and try to agree a new structure that carries the most support within the county. With proper agreement, this could be great news for Surrey residents.

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Responses to Letter: Not One Unitary Authority But Three Would Be More Efficient

  1. John Perkins Reply

    July 10, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    Three seems reasonable, maybe more. They would retain some semblance of localism and, being unitary, they would solve the problem of reponsibility for the drains in the road outside my house alternating between GBC and SCC.

    Get rid of the parish and town councils at the same time.

    I wonder what the opinion of the Boundaries Commission is.

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