Getting rid of district and borough councils for a unitary authority is like “driving a bulldozer through local government”.

That is according to Edwin Wooton, an Abbots Langley resident, who has set up a petition calling for any plans to abolish the current two-tier local structure in place across Hertfordshire to be stopped.

It comes after David Williams, the Hertfordshire County Council leader, said he expects to see “the end” two tier local government during a council meeting last week.

It was also suggested during the meeting– not by Cllr Williams – that replacing the current system with one unitary council could save up to £142m a year. Replacing it with two could save £105m a year.

But Mr Wooton, 22, said “it is not worth saving money” on changing Hertfordshire into a unitary authority.

Watford Observer:

Edwin Wooton is against any plans for a unitary authority

He said: “If Hertfordshire were to become a unitary authority it would be saving money at the expense of local expertise.

“Local areas will lose their representation and it would be difficult to have any change that a local community wants.”

If Hertfordshire were to become a unitary authority, it would see all powers and responsibilities be combined into one 'super' council for the whole county.

In the current two-tier basis, ten district and borough councils are responsible for planning and parks as well as other services like refuse collections and leisure.

The county council is responsible for services including like roads, education, and social care.

Mr Wooton did say that centralised decision making “can make things more efficient from an economic standpoint”, but felt accountability “would be lost” under a unitary authority.

He said in the petition: “Some places, like Watford, have a democratically elected mayor and are far more politically independent than they would ever be under the proposals. 

“This proposal, if enacted, would be akin to driving a bulldozer through local government.”

During the council meeting last week, Cllr Williams said there is a “cost, complexity and overlap in the current system (two-tier)”.

He said: “We can deliver improved and more efficient services, joined up agendas such as social care and housing that at present require 10 different sets of relationships to be developed.

“We know structure reform could result in substantial savings for the public purse, placing Hertfordshire in a more secure situation in the face of an uncertain financial outlook.”

He added: “The impact and ongoing response to Covid-19, the incoming recession and its impact on jobs will drive the need for sustainable growth, housing and opportunity for our residents.

“It is important for us to provide clear, collective leadership in Hertfordshire as a place, a strong and clear voice.”

So far Mr Wooton's petition has gathered more than 70 signatures.

Watford Observer:

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