MP warns on Government's unitary council move

A warning has come today (Tuesday) that the Government may be about to push through the abolition of borough and district councils in Devon in order to create the political fix of an Exeter unitary authority and a rest of Devon unitary authority. Geoff

A warning has come today (Tuesday) that the Government may be about to push through the abolition of borough and district councils in Devon in order to create the "political fix" of an Exeter unitary authority and a rest of Devon unitary authority.

Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon, described the potential move as Labour's "scorched earth" legacy for Devon, ripping up the county and condemning the rural areas to increased isolation and neglect while setting up an unviable Exeter authority that even the Boundary Committee had considered a second rate solution.

Mr Cox said it would be Exeter Labour MP Ben Bradshaw's "final bequest to the people of Devon."

He continued: "It shows the contempt in which the Labour Government holds rural communities. They have simply no interest in rural interests or people. For them, Devon does not exist beyond the perimeters of the city. Fortunately, a Conservative Government will repeal the statutory instrument, which I fervently hope will prove to be the last piece of vanity publishing from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport."

The measure, which would see the abolition of district councils such as Torridge District Council and West Devon Borough Council and its replacement by the unitary authorities was likely to be placed before Parliament at the latest possible date before the beginning of the General Election campaign, said the MP, who has previously described the long drawn out process as a "fiasco" and urged the Government to abandon the idea.

Mr Cox said: "This whole, painfully-drawn out process has been an unmitigated disaster, undermining morale, draining resources, preventing councils from moving forward with practical measures to improve services and making planning for the future impossible.

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"If the Government decides to rip up the county of Devon, despite the near unanimous opposition of every interested party, it will be completely wrong-headed and runs entirely contrary to the overwhelming balance of public opinion on the issue. Even the leader of the Labour group on Devon County Council accepts that the proposals are completely unworkable.

Given that any Conservative Government would reverse these deeply damaging and unwanted changes, it is hard to come to any other conclusion than that Ministers are engaged in a "political fix" and deliberately intending to leave a 'scorched earth' legacy to the people of Devon.

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