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Unitary plan set to go ahead

North Shropshire | News | Published:

The Government today gave Shropshire County Council the green light to press ahead with its controversial plans to set up an all-purpose unitary authority.

This will lead to the scrapping of the county's five district councils.

Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly announced in a Commons written statement that the county council - along with 15 other areas - should now enter a three-month consultation period over their proposals for unitary status.

Under the SCC plan - jointly submitted with district councils in south Shropshire and Oswestry - the council would take over responsibility for delivering all council services from Oswestry, North Shropshire, Shrewsbury & Atcham, Bridgnorth and South Shropshire district councils.

Voters rejected the idea in referendums in Shrewsbury & Atcham, Bridgnorth and South Shropshire, and today Tory MPs Philip Dunne and Daniel Kawczynski said they would continue to fight the plan, and forecast that the local elections on May 3 would now become a referendum on the idea.

The final decision on whether to allow SCC to become an all-purpose authority in addition to Telford & Wrekin will be taken shortly after the consultation period finishes at the end of June. If the plan is approved by ministers, the district councils would be jettisoned at the end of March 2009.

Local government minister Phil Woolas said Shropshire would now have to demonstrate that a unitary authority could deliver improved services at a lower cost to the council tax payer than the current two-tier system.

"None of these proposals will go ahead unless they can demonstrate robustly that they will cut council tax," he said.

By London Editor John Hipwood

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