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16th Jun, 2021

MP fears South Warwickshire council merger could undermine democracy

‘SUPER-district’ plans could undermine democracy argues Labour MP Matt Western.

The Warwick and Leamington MP has set up a ‘citizens assembly’ to decide the size and shape of the region’s authorities as Warwick and Stratford District Councils make moves to merge services and create a South Warwickshire ‘super district’.

The plans were approved in principal in February by councillors from both authorities, with an agreement to work towards its formation by 2024.

They would also involve the creation of a larger council responsible for North Warwickshire.

Meanwhile, Warwickshire County Council (WCC) coughed up an estimated £50,000 of public funds on a review including a report recommending the controversial creation of a unitary authority in the county.

The figure emerged from a conversation county councillors had with a senior council officer.

Plans for the single council were submitted to the government last year but were unsuccessful – and opposed by more than 1,000 residents in Mr Western’s petition.

Mr Western fears the district merger proposals could also pave the way for a single ‘super council’ thereafter – and then ‘ridiculous’ plans to have a single mayor of Warwickshire.

He said: “The formation of the unitary authority or the ‘super districts’ would take power away from residents. Both would be tantamount to a Conservative Party power grab in Warwickshire.

“My ‘#PublicFirst’ campaign aims for residents rather than consultancy firms to have the final say on plans that could alter regional politics beyond recognition and undermine democracy.

“Under the ‘super district’ plans, the number of councillors would be cut significantly – which could mean a councillor from Tiddington making decisions on behalf of residents from Lillington. Residents need to feel more connected not detached from political decision-making.

“We propose that a citizens assembly be set up at the earliest opportunity. It is the residents that are the only consultants who really matter.”

He has set up another petition on his website so he can generate support for the citizens assembly.

Stratford and Warwick district council chiefs argue the merger would result in savings of around £2million per year for each council, and secure the long-term future of key services.

A joint response from authority chief executives David Buckland, for Stratford and Chris Elliott for Warwick, stated: “The future structure of local government is a significant issue which will have a lasting impact on our communities, and as so we want to ensure that we are making informed decisions based upon evidence. Both Stratford and Warwick are fully committed to full public consultation ahead of any submission to central government requesting local government reform.”

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