The future shape of local councils in Essex is being discussed, writes Cllr David
Finch, the Leader of Essex County Council, with the opportunity to simplify the
current system coming soon.
In September 2020, The Government is expected to bring forward a white
paper, which will begin the process of reforming local councils in ‘two-tier’ County
From our discussions with the Government, it is clear that it sees the current two-tier
system of county and district councils, or county and city or borough councils as
imperfect, and that unitary authorities, which are responsible for all council services
in a defined area, are seen as a better option for delivering services. In Essex, for
example, this might lead to between two and four new unitary councils.
In a recent speech, the Minister for Local Government, Simon Clarke MP, also
pointed to the importance of the future role of town and parish councils, as the
Government looks at the potential to devolve more decision making to local level.
In Essex work has begun on what the new ‘map’ of Essex Councils might look like,
with initial discussions having taken place over the summer. Across Essex, we have
one of the most complex local government structures in the UK – one county council,
12 district/borough/city councils and two unitary councils in Southend and Thurrock.
There is a real commitment and ambition to consider how much more can be
achieved with a simplified system.
Alongside this, and providing new unitary councils are agreed, the Government will
also allow us to submit proposals for a ‘Combined Authority’, led by a directly elected
Mayor. A combined authority would be represented by the leaders of the new unitary
councils, and would be able to secure funding for investment in our economy and
infrastructure. The ambition in Essex is to have proposals ready to submit following
the publication of the White Paper.
I would stress that alongside this work, we will keep a focus on working with our
partners and delivering for our residents and businesses throughout this period.
We have a made a positive start on this work. Keeping residents and businesses at
the heart of our thinking, and ensuring we get the best possible deal and structures
to support them in the future, is what will guide our thinking.
Cllr David Finch
Leader, Essex County Council