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Final proposals for unitary patterns of local government in the two-tier areas of County Durham are being submitted to the Deputy Prime Minister today. The recommendations from The Boundary Committee for England mark the end of an independent review which began in June 2003. The Committee has set out two options for patterns of unitary authorities in the county.
A single unitary authority comprising the whole of the County Durham area:
The districts of Chester-le-Street, Derwentside, Durham City, Easington, Sedgefield, Teesdale and Wear Valley would be abolished and their functions transferred to Durham County Council, which would be renamed County Durham Council.
Three unitary authorities based on combinations of existing districts:
Durham County Council and the districts of Chester-le-Street, Derwentside, Durham City, Easington, Sedgefield, Teesdale and Wear Valley would all be abolished. Their functions would be transferred to three new unitary districts to be named East Durham (comprising Durham City and Easington), North Durham (comprising Chester-le-Street and Derwentside) and South Durham (comprising Sedgefield, Teesdale and Wear Valley).
The year-long exercise in the North East, which was also conducted in the North West and Yorkshire & the Humber regions saw the Committee reviewing those areas where there are currently two tiers of local government, both district and county councils. The Committee was directed to propose at least two options for patterns of local government based on a single tier of councils, known as unitary authorities. Retaining current structures was not an option. At a later date, all people living in the three northern regions will be asked to decide in a referendum if they want an elected regional assembly. Those living in the two tier areas, such as County Durham, will be asked to make a further decision on which option for unitary local government they would prefer if a regional assembly is established.
The review included two rounds of public consultation, each lasting twelve weeks, during which time local authorities, stakeholders and interested parties were invited to submit their proposals for patterns of local government. Over 1,000 submissions were received from County Durham. The Committee also commissioned MORI to undertake public opinion research on its draft proposals for the county. The research findings were published on 14 April 2004.
In considering options for unitary authorities, the Committee was guided by the Local Government Act 1992 and Guidance issued by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Key considerations included local authority capacity, geography, community leadership, representation and the ability for any new unitary authorities to become high performing, delivering quality services to local residents.
The Boundary Committee Chair, Pamela Gordon said, We have given full consideration to all the proposals and representations we have received. In the light of all the evidence put to us, we are satisfied that we are putting forward viable options for patterns of unitary local government in County Durham.
Our principal objective has been to ensure our options offer realistic prospects of meeting the needs of people living in all the communities concerned through the creation of strong, sustainable and potentially high-performing unitary authorities.
Subject to the Deputy Prime Ministers decision on our final recommendations, electors in the two-tier areas of County Durham will be able to vote on their preferred pattern for unitary local government in a referendum later in the year.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) is now responsible for deciding the outcome of the Committees recommendations and all further correspondence should be addressed to: Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Zone 5/B1, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU. The Government will not take final decisions on the local government options for a period of six weeks from today (until 6 July 2004).
Notes to Editors:
Issued on behalf of The Boundary Committee by Weber Shandwick North. For further information, please contact:
Weber Shandwick North
2 Jordan Street
Tel: 0161 238 9416
Fax: 0161 228 3076
Boundary Committee press office
Senior Press Officer, Charmaine Colvin:
Tel: 020 7271 0700/07887 626 774
Assistant Press Officer, Elise Cross:
Tel: 020 7271 0530