Unitary council could save £29m in first five years

PUBLISHED: 10:24 12 September 2008 | UPDATED: 22:19 15 June 2010

A new single unitary for Devon will save £29 million in the first five years after fully paying back transition costs and investing in local communities, according to Devon County Council.

A new single unitary for Devon will save £29 million in the first five years after fully paying back transition costs and investing in local communities, according to Devon County Council.Based on setting council tax at the lowest rate of all current district, borough and city councils, new financial figures show that all transition costs for establishing the new single unitary will be met in just 3 years and eight months and bring year on year savings of £19 million.By contrast, a rural Devon Unitary Council, excluding Exeter, Exmouth and surrounding parishes, would achieve savings of just £1.2 million by year five - £27.8 million less than could be achieved by a single Unitary Council.The figures released today are from an affordability study compiled by Devon County Council, with input from Devon's districts, city and borough councils at the request of the Boundary Committee for England.The payback period for a Rural Unitary Devon, (excluding Exeter, Exmouth and surrounding parishes), after initial costs of transition would take four years and 11 months, which is narrowly within the Government's five year payback period.Ongoing savings for the Rural Devon option, year on year, after year five would be £10 million, which is a little more than half the savings achievable every year with a single unitary council.The findings indicate that a move to a single unitary council would generate significant savings that far outweigh the initial transition costs. It would remove duplication, allow easier integration of related services - it would complement the current boundaries of Devon Primary Care Trust and the Police Basic Command Unit - and deliver savings in management, administration and democratic costs. It would also allow for efficiencies of scale, rationalisation of systems and assets, and maximise savings on commissioning and procurement.The report has been reviewed independently by Local Government Futures, who provide high quality financial and management consulting services to the public sector. They conclude that:"Devon County Council has made reasonable efforts to identify and assess the costs and savings attributable to Local Government Reorganisation proposals, with any bias being to overstate costs estimates and understate savings."The county council's Leader, Cllr Brian Greenslade said: "Even if we have understated the possible savings as the independent assessment suggests, £29 million in the fifth year of a new single Unitary Council are huge savings."Our calculations indicate that the option to create two Unitary Councils would leave Devonians at least £27 million worse off."The Government want to see payback after transition costs within five years. We believe that with the efficiencies made through a single Unitary Council would mean that payback would be possible by three years and eight months - over a year sooner than the Government's wishes."It would enable the new Council to equalise Council Tax across Devon, reducing the amounts paid by households to the level of the lowest.

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