Boundary Committee sticks with unitary Devon proposal

THE LEADER of East Devon District Council has ridiculed a recommendation by the Boundary Committee on Monday for a single unitary council for Devon.

THE LEADER of East Devon District Council has ridiculed a recommendation by the Boundary Committee on Monday for a single unitary council for Devon.

Councillor Sara Randall Johnson said: "The only thing more surprising than the ridiculous single Devon unitary proposal is the period of time that the public will have to comment - six weeks - to include the distraction of Christmas and New Year holidays.

"We have argued all along that a massive council covering all the disparate parts of Devon, an area four times the size of Greater London, would be unwieldy and undemocratic.

"Despite the latest court judgement, in favour of the Boundary Committee, earlier judgements have censured the Boundary Committee for its poorly conducted consultation process.

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"Now the Secretary of State is compounding this by allowing the public and councils just 24 working days to respond."

She said Government had "shown contempt" for the views of thousands of Devon residents opposed to the proposal.

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"Devon will have the worst level of democratic representation in the country, with a proposed 100 elected councillors representing 740,000 people - that's one councillor working for 7,400 people." This is worse than Bristol, currently with the worst ratio of one councillor to 5,900.

She said estimates that a single Devon council could save �28 million, after transitional costs of �74 million are met in Year Four, followed by annual savings of �19 million, were out of date, based on 2007 estimates.

Miss Randall Johnson said since Cornwall went unitary earlier this year, transition costs had nearly tripled to �60 million.

"If this were repeated in Devon, it would be at least 10 years before any benefits were shown and any financial benefits would be at the considerable expense of the chaos caused by a shotgun marriage of all Devon's districts and the following undemocratic system of governance that would follow."

It is ironic the announcement had come in the week Devon councils had been congratulated by independent assessors on the good service they are delivering.

"Good local councils working together is the key to success and I would hope that the Minister - who has the final say on this, will think again before adopting this stupid scheme."

She said EDDC would take legal advice and consult with partner authorities on taking steps to oppose "this absurd idea" adding: "I'd be interested to know the reaction of Exeter's MP to the news that his Government intends for his city to be subsumed into a massive impersonal unitary council.

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