MPs hit out at county proposals

THE two MPs covering the Mid Beds area of Comet country have slammed the Government s decision on the way forward for the unitary proposals for Bedfordshire as a shambles. North East Bedfordshire MP Alistair Burt said the Government s failure to make a de

THE two MPs covering the Mid Beds area of Comet country have slammed the Government's decision on the way forward for the unitary proposals for Bedfordshire as a shambles.

North East Bedfordshire MP Alistair Burt said the Government's failure to make a decision on separate submissions put forward by Mid and South Beds district councils condemned both councils to an expensive standstill and uncertainty.

Last week the Department for Communities and Local Government announced that Bedfordshire County Council's proposal for a single county-wide authority had been included on its list for further stakeholder consultation.

The proposal for a new unitary authority for Bedford will also be taken forward.

But the submissions by Mid and South Beds district councils will not be considered by the Government at this stage.

Mr Burt and Mid Beds MP Nadine Dorries are now seeking urgent talks with local government minister Phil Woolas to discuss ways of finding a solution.

Most Read

"What a mess this is," said Mr Burt.

"We said at the outset that the Government's plans were badly flawed in their timescale and their intention, and were likely to cost local taxpayers millions of pounds in unnecessary costs.

"The logical inconsistency of accepting Bedford Borough's bid, but not that of Mid and South Beds, means either that only the county can succeed or that the minister will use new powers he has taken to compel new unitary arrangements in the county which no one may be campaigning for.

"Pitting these two councils against each other could be encouraging a significant waste of money as councils spend taxpayers' money to promote their cause."

Mr Burt added: "Future planning in Bedfordshire has now come to a halt. Those running our services do not know what the future holds for them and vital decisions will be put off in education, social services and highways.

"We are seeking the meeting to try and understand the Government's thinking and find out what is to happen to Mid and South Beds councils.

"Will they stay or go? Is there any point in their impending elections?"

Mrs Dorries is demanding that residents across Bedfordshire are given their say on the unitary proposals.

But she added: "This process will be a costly exercise and I would have preferred to see the money being spent, channelled into the NHS to fight the spread of MRSA, wiping out Bedford Hospital's deficit, or for Steppingley Hospital to stay open."

The chief executives of both Mid and South district councils Jaki Salisbury and Jon Ruddick have also criticised the Government's decision, saying that "it is very disappointing that the announcement has left Bedfordshire in this uncertain position".

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter