Thousands Of Jobs To Go As Councils Are Scrapped

Ministers face a string of legal challenges after announcing that 35 councils are to be scrapped in a move to streamline services and save £150 million a year.

John Healey, the Local Government Minister, announced yesterday that ten new larger unitary authorities would be created by abolishing 35 councils and merging their services.

But the reorganisation, planned for 2009, is likely to involve thousands of redundancies and has been widely opposed by those councils duem to disappear. Although there is no right of appeal, several town halls are expected to seek a judicial review.

The Conservatives claimed the costs of converting councils would be £121 a head in the areas concerned equivalent to £345 per household. But Mr Healey maintained there would be overall savings of £150 million per annum when services were merged.

All district councils will be scrapped in five county councils Cornwall, Durham, Shropshire, Wiltshire and Northumberland where services will be streamlined into authorities on county boundaries. In addition some counties will lose some of their responsibilities to four city councils Bedford, Chester, Ipswich and Exeter.

Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, is facing legal challenges from three district councils which claim that the Government has failed to consult the public. Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council, Congleton Borough Council and Harrogate Borough Council all seek a judicial review.

Brian Spears, chief executive of Durham City Council, which is to be merged with seven other districts into a unitary authority, said he expected several other town halls to mount legal challenges. He said: “The county has claimed there will only be 180 job losses but we have obtained advice that there will be many more.”

A recent lobby of Parliament by all districts facing abolition showed that polls across the country showed that the public were implacably opposed to losing their local voice.