Scrapping ‘historical relic’ of Hertfordshire county and borough councils might lose democratic voice

PUBLISHED: 13:21 28 August 2020 | UPDATED: 13:27 28 August 2020

David Williams, the new leader of Hertfordshire County Council. Photo: Pete Stevens.

David Williams, the new leader of Hertfordshire County Council. Photo: Pete Stevens.

2017 Pete Stevens

The leader of Hertfordshire County Council has called the two-tier local government system “a bit of historical relic” and advocated for them to be scrapped across the UK.

And today, Cllr David Williams, who is also chairman of the County Councils Network (CCN), has published a “compelling” financial case through the CCN for the creation of single county unitary councils conducted by PwC.

The report – commissioned by the CCN, which is dominated by mainly Conservative councils including Herts – estimates £2.94bn could be saved over five years nationally and will create a levelling up of services if boroughs and districts are scrapped.

Consultants PwC have already been asked by Herts leader Cllr Williams in November 2019 to confirm if there was a financial case to abolish borough and districts and create a mega-authority.

But the leaders of the 10 district and borough councils, who have since commissioned their own consultants to ‘explore’ alternative proposals, have rejected this proposal and reacted negatively to being told nine months after Pwc was hired.

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor has spoken out against plans to make Hertfordshire a unitary authority.Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor has spoken out against plans to make Hertfordshire a unitary authority.

Leader of Stevenage Borough Council Cllr Sharon Taylor, Labour, told the BBC today that unitary plans are “not devolution” but “centralisation” and would make the 1.3 million people in Herts democratically worse-off with less reactive representation.

Cllr Taylor, who also sits on the District Council Network (DCN) board added: “That real democratic voice that people have at local level is really important to them.”

However, Cllr Williams disagreed and said: “Unitary counties won’t lead to a democratic deficit. Rather, as evidenced by authorities that have already made this journey, they have the potential to bring services closer to residents, developing new ways for residents to engage and shape service provision more effectively and enhance local democratic participation with empowered town and parish councils.”

The CCN report comes ahead of the publication of the government’s ‘devolution and local recovery’ white paper, which is expected to advocate for the scrapping of boroughs and districts.

To see the report please go here.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Welwyn Hatfield Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Welwyn Hatfield Times