EDDC welcomes further delay in boundary review
THE LEADER of East Devon District Council, Councillor Sara Randall Johnson, today welcomed news that the Government has announced a further delay in the Boundary Committee's Local Government Review, which had been due to report on Friday, February 13.
THE LEADER of East Devon District Council, Councillor Sara Randall Johnson, today welcomed news that the Government has announced a further delay in the Boundary Committee's Local Government Review, which had been due to report on Friday, February 13.Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has now given the Boundary Committee until July 15 to complete its research and report to her on what it believes to be the most cost-effective and democratic change to local government in the county.Miss Randall Johnson said today (Monday): "This completely vindicates our decision to challenge the Government and the Boundary Committee on the degree of consultation that had been carried out before the original recommendations were made."Following the Judicial Review in December, the Judge made it clear that further consultation should be carried out before the Boundary Committee finalised its recommendations. Neither the Single Devon Unitary, nor the Rural Devon Unitary with a second Exeter/Exmouth Unitary had been properly consulted upon. "When you are determined to stand by a point of principle, and to protect the future of democracy in Devon, you have to be brave - and you have to be prepared to put your money where your mouth is. That's what we have done and our resolve has been fully justified."We didn't feel that the Judge had gone far enough in calling the Boundary Committee to account, but it was clear from what he did say that more time was needed to ensure that any changes are not rushed through with indecent haste. The initial postponement from December to February and now this second delay are tantamount to an admission by Communities and Local Government Minister Hazel Blears that we were right."EDDC's legal team is now considering the implications of the news for the Council's proposed appeal against the Judicial Review ruling. It may be that there is little further to be gained by the appeal and that it could now be withdrawn.Meanwhile, EDDC's Leader is turning her attention to the possible implications of the latest move. She went on: "This further delay will, as we wished, give the Boundary Committee time to consult fully on the single Devon option, but also to take a closer look at the other alternative rather tentatively put forward by them in July last year. That is a Devon Unitary council with a Greater Exeter Unitary within it. That would entail Exeter creaming off some of the more lucrative parts of East Devon in order to make the city unitary viable. "Needless to say, I would not be in favour of this option. We would be happy to work more closely with Exeter, but we have argued all along that if major change has to happen, Devon should be split into four unitary areas, based on travel-to-work areas. One of these four would mean linking East Devon and Exeter into a single authority that reflects where people live, work, commute and travel for leisure purposes."All Devon councils had already agreed the concept of Integrated Devon - that is a voluntary collaboration on shared services designed to make significant efficiency savings on service delivery."What we do know is that around 68% of responses on the Boundary Committee's website are against the proposals, with only 13% supporting a Greater Exeter and just 14% in favour of the single Devon unitary."Miss Randall Johnson, though pleased at the latest news, was concerned that the further delay prolonged the uncertainty over the outcome, which was a continuing distraction for Members and Staff who were trying to get on with the business of governing and serving Devon.She added: "The weather and the credit crunch are really quite enough for everyone to cope with. This extra burden is both unnecessary and unwanted.