The independent Boundary Committee for England is disappointed with the judgment relating to the local government review in Suffolk that was handed down this morning.
At this stage the Committee is still waiting to hear from the court what, if any, further action it may need to take to comply with the judgment. Following those decisions the Committee will need to consider the implications for the structural review in Suffolk. It will also consider whether there are implications for its work in Devon and Norfolk. The Committee has been granted leave to appeal against the judgment.
Any further uncertainty caused in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk is regrettable, but the Committee sees no other option in moving forward but to consider very carefully what impact today’s decision has for both its process and for its future work programme.
For further information contact:
Telephone: Gareth Nicholson on 020 7271 0638
Outside office hours: 07789 920414
Notes to Editors:
1. The judgment handed down by Mr Justice Foskett said inter alia: “…the Boundary Committee should have discussed with the Claimants any reservations it had about whether the concepts advanced met the Secretary of State’s criteria before publishing the Draft proposals in July 2008 and also in March this year.”
2. The Boundary Committee for England is a committee of the Electoral Commission, an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. The Committee’s main role is to conduct electoral reviews of local authorities in England with the aim of ensuring the number of electors represented by each councillor is approximately the same. Other duties include reviewing local authority boundaries and advising the Government on local authority bids for unitary status.
3. A structural review is used to establish whether one or more single, all-purpose councils, known as unitary authorities, should be established in an area instead of the existing two-tier system.
4. The Boundary Committee published its original draft proposals on 7 July 2008 and bagan a public consultation exercise that ended 26 September 2008. Further draft proposals were published on 19 March 2009 and were subject to public consultation until 14 May 2009.
5. In October 2006 the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government issued an invitation to two-tier principal local authorities (district and county councils) in England to submit proposals for a change to unitary or single-tier status. The invitation set out five criteria by which the Secretary of State indicated any proposals received would be judged. It stated that any change to unitary local government should:
• be affordable
• be supported by a broad cross-section of partners and stakeholder
• provide strong, effective and accountable strategic leadership
• deliver genuine opportunities for neighbourhood flexibility and empowerment
• deliver value-for-money and equity in public services