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Unitary council set for approval

North Shropshire | News | Published:

The Commons was today set to approve the Government's controversial plans to establish an all-purpose county-wide unitary authority in Shropshire, despite opposition from the county's Tory MPs.

Shire Hall in ShrewsburyThe Commons was today set to approve the Government's controversial plans to establish an all-purpose county-wide unitary authority in Shropshire, despite opposition from the county's Tory MPs.

Ministers claim their scheme to scrap the district and borough councils in Shrewsbury and Atcham, Oswestry, north Shropshire, Bridgnorth and south Shropshire, will boost efficiency and save money.

See also - County a late night TV star

But opponents claim the move will spell council job losses and take decisions on important issues away from affected local areas.

If the legislation is approved - which is highly likely because of the Government's majority - it will then pass on to the House of Lords for debate.

This means the proposal could be rubber-stamped on Thursday.

The decision will mean that from April 2009, the county will be split into unitary authorities - Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire County - and elections held the following month.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Ludlow MP Philip Dunne, said: "Today is a dark day for democracy in Shropshire."

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Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczysnki called on ministers to rethink the move.

He said 18,000 of his constituents had voted against unitary status in a referendum in Shrewsbury - 70 per cent of the vote - compared to a handful of letters of support from across the county.

He told MPs Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council was "excellent" and the area had some "marvellous councillors" who could be held to account because they lived in their wards, close to their constituents.

"If we have a unitary authority, councillors away from Shrewsbury will make decisions on specific parochial issues that affect Shrewsbury.

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"That bond and that accountability will be broken. That is a tremendous threat to local democracy.

"I'm a great believer in the saying, 'if it ain't broken, don't fix it'," he added.

Mr Dunne accused the Government of masterminding a "party political plan" to reduce the number of opposition councillors - Conservative and Liberal Democrats - in the county.

And he slammed the Government's consultation on the change, which he said was a "complete sham".

Mark Pritchard, MP for the Wrekin, demanded to know if there would be any compulsory redundancies as a result of the changes.

He said there was grave concern among "dedicated and hard-working staff" that jobs at all levels in the councils would disappear.

"If any council workers in Shropshire suffer compulsory redundancies, the fault will lie entirely at the door of No. 10 and this Government," he added.

See also - County a late night TV star

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