TIME NOT RIGHT FOR REORGANISATION OF ESSEX COUNCILS

August 24, 2020 11:53 AM
By Melvin Caton

Uttlesford Liberal Democrats have responded to reports that the Government is expected to publish plans next month to reorganise councils in Essex. The leader of Uttlesford Lib Dem councillors, Cllr Alan Dean said that Uttlesford District Council"the time is not right for such an upheaval whilst local councils are still dealing the
consequences of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the emerging economic recession.
"Reorganisation would be extremely resource intensive and an unwelcome distraction at a
time when we should be completely focused on responding to the recovery our communities
in Uttlesford need", Cllr Dean said.


The Government is believed to favour the abolition of Essex County Council, the existing
Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock Unitary Councils and the twelve district councils, including
Uttlesford. They want to create up to four new unitary councils with populations between
300,000 to 700,00 people. Uttlesford presently has a population of around 90,000 residents.
Following the creation of the new unitary councils the Government also wishes to see a
directly elected Mayor who would lead a new "Essex" Combined Authority comprising the
Mayor and all the leaders of the new Unitary Authorities. The Government says that it will
devolve powers and funding for infrastructure and economic development to the Combined
Authority.


Cllr Melvin Caton, the Lib Dem spokesman on the Uttlesford Local Plan, said that "if a West
Essex unitary authority is created comprising the three existing Essex districts along the M11
corridor - Epping Forest, Harlow and Uttlesford - then there is an even greater danger than
now that Uttlesford will become a target for developers, as both Epping Forest and Harlow
are constrained from development growth by the Metropolitan Green Belt".


"This will take power and decision making further away from people", argued Cllr Janice
Loughlin, who represents Stort Valley. "Councillors will lose contact with their parishes. The
Government says it wants to devolve responsibility and funding, but in reality, it amounts to
greater centralisation by taking power away from local people, who would have fewer
representatives. It's a hostile Tory takeover bid"