Government response leaves Shropshire and Telford council merger talk dead in the water
The benefits of a merger between Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Council will only be looked at if the local authorities request it, the government has said – appearing to leave the idea dead in the water.
The comments, from Rishi Sunak, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government, seem to put a firm end to Shrewsbury & Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski's calls for the councils to merge – given that both authorities have vocally opposed the suggestion already this month.
Mr Sunak's confirmation came after Mr Kawczynski had submitted a raft of questions to the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government over the potential benefits of merging the two authorities.
The Conservative MP has several times in recent years called for the abolition of Telford & Wrekin Council and for the entire of Shropshire to be governed by one organisation.
Responding to Mr Kawczynski's request for an assessment of the benefits of a merger Mr Sunak said: "If the two councils were to submit a proposal to merge we would assess this against the criteria which we announced to Parliament in a written statement on November 7, 2017."
Mr Kawczynski had also asked for the previous cost savings delivered through the creation of Shropshire Council by merging Shrewsbury, North Shropshire and South Shropshire Borough Councils in 2009.
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Although Mr Sunak said the government had not made its own assessments, he said an independent study had put the figure at around £20 million every year.
He said: "The department has made no such estimates following the establishment of the Shropshire Council but an in dependent review undertaken by EY, ‘Independent Analysis of Governance Scenarios and Public Service Reform in County Areas’ published in 2016 estimates the savings to have been £20 million per year."
Another element of the responses is that Telford Council has more to spend per resident than its neighbouring Shropshire authority.
According to the parliamentary under-secretary the "core Spending Power per dwelling for Shropshire is £1,685 in 2019-20".
That figure was greater in Telford where it was £1,729.
The latest call for a merger came after the chief executive of Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) announced he was leaving his post.
The Shrewsbury MP had questioned whether the departure had been influenced by pressure from Telford & Wrekin Council over its opposition to Future Fit plans to reorganise the hospitals – which have been strongly supported by trust CEO Simon Wright.
In the wake of Mr Kawczynski's call for the authorities to unite both councils released statements rejecting the proposition.