Lord Heseltine calls for two-tier councils like SKDC and LCC to be replaced

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Lord Heseltine has called the system of local government used in Lincolnshire costly, confusing and unsustainable, in his review published on Wednesday.

Lord Heseltine is encouraging counties like Lincolnshire to abandon the two-tier county and district council system in favour of unitary authorities.

The change would mean a single authority overseeing Lincolnshire or the county being divided up into half a dozen unitary authorities, perhaps with a Kesteven unitary authority covering the Grantham area.

Lord Heseltine said in his report that businesses prefer dealing with a single authority while the two-tier system is “costly and confusing”.

He added: “Unitary authorities run local services effectively and at considerably lower cost. They provide greater clarity and accountability about where responsibilities lie for delivery of local services. They avoid duplication and coordination issues that can arise between different local authority functions.

“They facilitate faster and more robust decision making and avoid the unnecessary administrative expense associated with running a two-tier system.”

SKDC leader Linda Neal said: “SKDC provide more than 100 services to our residents and work hard to ensure that they get value for money and great service.

“If the Government were to look at replacing the current two tier local system with unitary authorities the work we do, within our communities, including refuse collection, housing provision, environmental health and planning would still need to be done.

“We hope that the move, which has been opposed by the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, will be thoroughly thought through.”

Leader of Lincolnshire County Council Martin Hill said: “There are pros and cons to all these issues around the best model for local government but the Secretary of State has made it clear that there are no immediate changes planned to the present system. Here in Lincolnshire we will continue to work closely with all the district councils, including South Kesteven District Council, where we are working towards providing a bypass for Grantham.”

Lord Heseltine accepts that his proposals for local government may be unpopular but believes they are necessary. He said: “Changing to a unitary model will not be easy. It will naturally be uncomfortable for those involved, it may be disruptive in the short term and it will take time. But it would be a mistake not to persevere.

The costs of the two-tier system are simply unsustainable. The advantages in increasing effectiveness and freeing resource for the benefit of communities will outweigh the pain.”

Lord Heseltine said the change could save counties £10m-£15m. He said: “There can be signiicant initial costs (but) these are recovered in as little as three years, with ongoing savings thereafter.”