The Boundary Committee has accepted a request to provide advice to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on the bids for unitary government in Exeter, Ipswich and Norwich.
In order to provide advice, the Committee intends to undertake structural reviews in the relevant county areas. The reviews are expected to begin this March and the Secretary of State has requested that the advice be provided by 31 December 2008.
Exeter City Council, Ipswich Borough Council and Norwich City Council made bids to the DCLG in early 2007 to become unitary authorities. The DCLG felt the proposals would not meet all of the five criteria, set out in the original invitation, in their present form. It has requested that the Boundary Committee look at local government structures and advise whether, for each county area, there could be alternative unitary solutions which may involve changes to local authority boundaries.
As part of the review in Devon, it is open for the Committee to recommend boundary changes to the existing authorities of Plymouth and Torbay. The local government structures in Norfolk and Suffolk will be considered together as the Committee has also been specifically asked to provide advice on whether there could be a unitary option that includes Great Yarmouth and Waveney.
The reviews will include public consultation to allow local people to have their say on the draft proposals. Full details of how to pass your views to the Boundary Committee will be published in due course.
It will be for the Committee to decide whether to make an alternative proposal for each area to the Secretary of State, who will then decide whether or not to implement the proposal.
Max Caller, Chair of the Boundary Committee for England, said: "We are keen that all local authorities and local stakeholders are engaged in these reviews and we will be visiting all three counties to discuss the review process and likely timescales. We will also be actively involving local people in the reviews and look forward to hearing their views on the proposals put forward."
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Notes to editors:
1. The Boundary Committee for England is responsible for reviewing local authority electoral arrangements, e.g. defining boundaries for local elections and the number of councillors to be elected, and for conducting reviews of local government external boundaries and structure.
2. The Committees last structural reviews took place in 2003/04 in Northumberland, Co Durham, North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire in advance of a referendum on elected regional assemblies.
3. Sixteen bids to become a unitary authority were made to the DCLG in early 2007. Seven of these are proceeding, six were rejected and three have been referred to the Boundary Committee for England for advice.
4. The power for the Secretary of State to request the Boundary Committee for advice is contained in Clause 5 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007.