Cambridge University research shows restructuring local government could cost Suffolk Council Tax Payers £350 a year warns Ruffley

Monday, 22 January, 2007

David Ruffley MP has today warned that a restructuring of local government could result in a massive rise in Council Tax.

Ministers in Whitehall are planning to pass a new law to give themselves unprecedented new powers to scrap either district or county councils. The Government will be able to force changes on local communities, including creating new councils that completely disregard existing shire boundaries. This could mean the abolition of Suffolk County Council, Mid Suffolk District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

Yet research by Cambridge University has estimated that the reorganisation costs of converting two-tier councils to unitary councils could be in the region of £121 per head, and 'there is every prospect that on-going costs would in fact be increased'. Such a bill would be equivalent to £345 per council tax-paying household. Police authorities across England are already facing extra costs for their now-cancelled plans to restructure.

Northern Ireland is being used as a testing ground for the drastic council restructuring. Plans there to reduce the number of councils from 26 councils to just 7, are to cost £143 million. Identifiable localities like North Down will become part of the anonymous 'East Local Government District'.

David is concerned that this will undermine local identities- replacing well-understood, historic boroughs and counties with 'sub-regional' unitary hybrids that have little popular support. In turn, more power will be transferred to the unelected regional assemblies, based on the EU / Government Office of the Region boundaries.

David said:

'Yet another restructuring of local government will do nothing to improve local services in Suffolk and could make town halls more distant from local people.

'I am very concerned that hard working families and pensioners, already suffering from punishing council tax hikes, could see their bills rise by up to £345, with little likelihood of any long-term savings.

'Just as with the cancelled police force reorganisation, the Government's real agenda is regionalisation by stealth. If England's boroughs and counties are wiped off the map and replaced with 'sub-regional' hybrids, it will weaken local identities and create a vacuum in which the unelected regional assemblies will suck up yet more power.

'If the Government really wanted to save money, it should start by scrapping John Prescott's tiers of regional bureaucrats.'