‘Council leaders are deeply unhappy at the spectre of a Hertfordshire mega-council’

PUBLISHED: 11:57 04 August 2020 | UPDATED: 11:57 04 August 2020

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor has spoken out against plans to make Hertfordshire a unitary authority.

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor has spoken out against plans to make Hertfordshire a unitary authority.

Archant

Many of you will have been troubled by an article published last week (‘Could unitary Herts body save £142m?’), raising the spectre of a ‘mega-council’ – the largest in the country.

This would abolish your local council here in Stevenage that gives local residents a strong voice. Hertfordshire’s council leaders from all political parties are deeply unhappy at the timing of this announcement and are dismayed at this distraction while our focus is on continuing to support our towns during this difficult time.

The people of Stevenage want to see us recover from the pandemic and want to be reassured we are ready and have the capacity to manage local outbreaks.

We are pulling out all the stops to support local people who are shielding, we are making transition plans for rough sleepers, getting local parks and leisure facilities open again, helping businesses with grant payments and making changes to the town centre and High Street.

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Our council will be doing everything it can to keep on track with its key projects, including our regeneration plans for the town centre, building a further 300 council homes, investing in our neighbourhoods and supporting the most vulnerable. We are here to deliver the priorities set by Stevenage people.

All Herts councils have worked together over two years to draw up plans for a multi-million pound bid to government to invest in local jobs, skills, affordable homes and improved infrastructure in preparation for the challenges ahead.

Despite over a decade of austerity, our council has found ways to save £10 million while protecting vital services. Stevenage people only pay £3.69 a week in council tax for local services, but the council tax for Hertfordshire County Council services is considerably more at £24 a week.

HCC claims the changes to local government could save approximately £140 million. We are currently scrutinising this figure as we will need to understand the impact it will have on service cuts, businesses and your local voice.

As leader of Stevenage Borough Council, I call on the county council and central government to consult with the public – because that is the way democracy must and will work. People making decisions should be close to the local community, to make sure they can have their say.


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