Letchworth council votes for dissolution review request

A COUNCIL will ask for a review which could lead to its dissolution, following a vote last night (Tuesday).

Letchworth Garden City Council, in which 22 of the 24 elected councillors represent the Help Eliminate Letchworth Parish council group (HELP), agreed to request North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC) to undertake a Community Governance Review (CGR), with a recommendation for its abolishment.

Cllr George Ritchie said at last week’s full council meeting that he understood that legislation surrounding dissolution of the council, formed in 2006, had changed under the Coalition Government and meant that two terms of four years was no longer required.

This was disputed last night by Town Council Supporters Party councillor Sue Johnson who said that this was not the case, a view accepted by members, although HELP councillors said the change to legislation referred to by Cllr Ritchie was an alteration in a 2007 Act regarding who makes the decision on the outcome of a CGR, now overseen by the principal authority, NHDC.

Cllr Johnson handed out the Local Government Boundary Commision for England’s guidance on CGRs to members before the vote took place, drawing particular attention to a point which states: “A factor taken into account by the Government in deciding abolition cases, was that local support for abolition needed to have been demonstrated over at least a period equivalent to two terms of office of the parish councillors (i.e. eight years), and that such support was sufficiently formed.”


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A council report prepared by Cllr Matthew Heaton concerning the CGR proposal, which will be submitted to NHDC, states: “At that time the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister considered that a parish ought to have been in existence for eight years before abolition was granted.

“Although that opinion may be of historical interest, times have now moved on, and with the introduction of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 the decision making process now lies with NHDC rather than with central government. Whereas the eight year consideration is given as an example of how a principal council might gauge the situation, it is by no means the only was to evaluate the sustained local support for abolition.”

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NHDC councillors will now have to vote on whether they should undertake a CGR, which typically takes a year, and if it goes ahead is likely to include a poll of Letchworth residents.

If NHDC recommend that the town council should be abolished, this decision could then be subject to a judicial review.

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