Leader of Harborough District Council slams scheme to axe the authority

The leader of Harborough District Council has slammed a bombshell scheme to axe the authority.
File image.File image.
File image.

Cllr Phil King hit the warpath after Leicestershire County Council said a controversial new ‘super council’ should be set up.

County council leader Nick Rushton said the 45-year-old Harborough authority should be scrapped along with Leicestershire’s six other districts in a bid to save £30m a year.

But Cllr King shot down the dramatic initiative as he accused his fellow Conservative of “megaphone diplomacy”.

And he raged: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Cllr King reacted after the county insisted in a new 100-page blueprint that a single unitary council “offers the best opportunity to save money, reduce duplication and protect frontline services”.Cllr Rushton, who represents North West Leicestershire, said: “Unitary local government works.

“Creating a council fit for the 21st century would save £30m each year, improve services, reduce confusion and duplication and get a better deal for our residents.”He added: “Local government still faces severe, long-term financial challenges – and these are likely to get worse since the Government is having to delay its fair funding review.”

The radical document will be discussed by the county’s cabinet next Tuesday (Oct 22).

If it’s rubberstamped it will be considered by the council’s Scrutiny Commission on October 30, the cabinet on November 22 and county council on December 4.

But Cllr King said: “We don’t support this plan and I certainly wouldn’t vote for it.

“This is megaphone diplomacy.

“The county’s plan is purely and simply about saving money.

“But they’ve just come up with one model and we all must be prepared to explore other options.”

The Harborough chief said the council, set up in 1974, was committed to becoming meaner and leaner.

“A lot could be done now to achieve savings and greater efficiency.

“There are other ways of reducing unnecessary duplication as we work with our fellow districts to get the best deal possible for the taxpayer,” said Cllr King.

“The districts are the best way of delivering local democracy and being hands on locally while protecting vital services.

“Creating a super council could take up to five years resulting in huge democratic upheaval against an existing backdrop of national uncertainty.

“It’s the last thing we need at the moment.”

Cllr Phil Knowles, leader of the Opposition on Harborough council, said: “A super council would be unworkable and unthinkable.

“It’s not the way to secure better services for the residents and businesses of both Harborough and Leicestershire as a whole.”The Liberal Democrat councillor added: “It’s an absolute non-starter.

“We could look at other routes to go down such as three unitary authorities covering north, south and Leicestershire.

“But we must sit down and have a proper discussion about this.”Meanwhile, all seven district councils united to pour cold water on the ambitious local government vision for the 2020s.

In a joint statement, Harborough, Blaby, Charnwood, Hinckley and Bosworth, Melton, North West Leicestershire and Oadby and Wigston district and borough councils, said: “The seven district councils in Leicestershire continue to work collaboratively to deliver highly-effective and efficient services to residents.

“Proposed changes to the structure of local government in Leicestershire failed to receive support last year from district councils or MPs.

“It is our view that better and cheaper services can be delivered through greater collaboration while keeping services local to the people who use them.

“There is an open invitation to the County Council to work with us on ideas for future collaboration.”