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25th May, 2022

Council merger plan was too risky for Stratford district residents

THE RISKS to residents in Stratford district were too great to go ahead with the proposed council merger with neighbouring Warwick.

So said Stratford District Council (SDC) leader Tony Jefferson after the authority today agreed to formally withdraw the request to merger with Warwick District Council and create a South Warwickshire Council.

Coun Jefferson said: “Although disappointing, we found an awful lot of new information and re-evaluated the position, and we decided the risks to our residents were too great.

“There is a significant difference between the approaches and ambitions of the two councils that have proved to be irreconcilable, which we have only found out after we started to work with Warwick.

“When the merger was first contemplated, our financial situation was very unclear following Covid, the potential of losing the New Homes Bonus and the uncertainty over business rates. Thankfully things have turned out better than expected both in terms of government grants and interim financial settlements, plus the economic recovery has also been stronger than predicted.

“Despite that, savings have been realised as part of this process. Early analysis shows that we have spent around £162,000 and estimated £271,000 worth of savings has been achieved, which equates to a net benefit of £110,000 of this joint working. This does not include the one-off savings relating to the Local Plan, that will be achieved as well. This means, that at this stage there is no need for an emergency budget. Our future budget plans and targets will depend on the Government settlement that we receive later in the year.

“Despite the decision today, it should not mean the end for the positives that this process has generated; we have learned a lot and wish to carry on as good partners and some of the joint working arrangements already put in place will continue as it makes sense to continue this work.”

The leader, on behalf of SDC, will now formally write to the Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to officially withdraw the formal submission to create a South Warwickshire District Council.

But joint working will continue with WDC, including development of the South Warwickshire Local Plan (SWLP) and the South Warwickshire Economic Development Strategy, together with a joint waste and recycling contract and efforts to tackle climate change, legal services and business rates administration.

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