North Devon Council today (Monday) expressed its shock and disbelief" at the proposal for a county-wide unitary council to replace the present district council set-up. Torridge District Council, however gave the proposal a general welcome North Devon
North Devon Council today (Monday) expressed its "shock and disbelief" at the proposal for a county-wide unitary council to replace the present district council set-up.Torridge District Council, however gave the proposal a general welcomeNorth Devon put forward a strong and passionate case for a new unitary council spanning the whole of northern Devon.A statement issued by the council said it had "grave concerns about the future of North Devon within a county-wide council that would stretch from Lynton to Salcombe. Less than a third of the proposed new unitary councillors would represent North Devon - the rest would represent the south, effectively silencing North Devon's voice."The reaction across the political spectrum at North Devon Council was unanimous:Council Leader and Leader of the Conservative Group Cllr Mike Harrison says: "We are stunned by this latest development and cannot believe that anyone would propose a unitary council that will represent three-quarters of a million people in one of the most inaccessible areas in the country. Dartmoor has split the county in half creating two completely distinct communities. One council to serve both where one half carries most of the weight is madness."Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Cllr Malcolm Prowse says: "This could be the death knell for local democracy and the economy in North Devon. We will not take this decision lying down. This is a public consultation period and we will do our very best to continue to hammer home the importance of North Devon being served by its own council."Leader of the Independent Group Cllr Eric Ley says: "All major decisions about our economy, our community and things that affect our everyday lives will be in the hands of councillors representing areas like Exeter, Newton Abbot and Totnes - which way do you think they are going to vote when money is tight? We have to fight for the interests of the people of North Devon who are in danger of being sold down the river."The Boundary Committee is consulting on its proposal for a unitary county-wide council from today until September 26th. The BC then makes its final recommendation to the Secretary of State on December 19th who is expected to make a final decision soon after.Torridge District Council welcomed the unitary proposals, however. It said it "captured the essence of the Torridge submission to put our citizens at the heart of local government and to provide our communities with the best possible services as efficiently as possible."The statement went on: "However, we are surprised by the Boundary Committee's decision not to adjust the boundaries for Plymouth and Torbay bearing in mind the socio-economic challenges faced by these existing unitaries."We are disappointed that the pivotal question of whether or not to include the capital city of Exeter within the boundaries of the proposed county unitary has not yet been determined (reference to the Boundary Committee's alternative two unitary authority pattern) and we are a little disappointed that our proposals for Mark Town Community Networks were not given the same recognition as the Community Boards proposed by the county council."However, we welcome the opportunity to continue a progressive dialogue with the Boundary Committee and will continue to work in helping to shape their final recommendation.