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The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move. This order gives effect to recommendations from the Local Government Commission's review of Hereford and Worcester. It sets up a unitary authority for Herefordshire on its traditional, pre-1974 borders. Worcestershire will keep two-tier local government;
I discussed earlier the reasons why we believe that unitary local government can often be better local government. The issues in Hereford and Worcester were looked at in detail by the Local Government Commission and the recommendations which this order implements were fully explained by the commission in its report.
In this order, the main elements are the same as in the Berkshire order. It provides for reorganisation on 1st April 1998. There will be all-out elections for a new council for all three new authorities--that is, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Malvern Hills--in May 1997. In each case the order provides for the redrawing of the electoral boundaries.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move. This order sets up two unitary authorities in Devon, in Plymouth and Torbay. Two-tier local government will remain in the rest of the county. The changes were recommended as part of the county structure reviews. However, we have not been able to bring them forward any sooner because we were awaiting the outcome of the commission's further review of Exeter.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move. The Essex order will create two unitary authorities in Essex--one for Southend and one for Thurrock. Each will follow the existing boundaries of the respective boroughs. The rest of the county will remain two tier.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move. This order implements the Local Government Commission's recommendations for Peterborough. Its primary effect will be that on 1st April 1998 the City of Peterborough will become a unitary authority. The rest of Cambridgeshire will retain the existing two-tier structure of local government.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move. This order gives effect to the Local Government Commission's recommendation that the City of Nottingham should become a unitary authority on its existing boundaries. The rest of Nottinghamshire will retain the existing two-tier structure of local government.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move. This order gives effect to the Local Government Commission's recommendation that The Wrekin should become a unitary authority on its existing boundaries. The rest of Shropshire will retain the existing two-tier structure of local government.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move. This order gives effect to the Local Government Commission's recommendations that Halton and Warrington should become unitary authorities on their existing boundaries. The rest of Cheshire will retain the existing two-tier structure of local government.
The order provides for Halton and Warrington Borough Councils each to prepare a unitary development plan. We agreed with the commission that it would be more suitable and convenient that strategic as well as local policies for each of these areas should be dealt with in one plan. Cheshire County Council will remain responsible for the structure plan covering the rest of the county area.
I was pleased when the commission, under the chairmanship of Sir John Banham, recommended that there should be no change in the county structure. Nevertheless, the Government ordered further reviews in the case of both Halton and Warrington, despite the fact that the Secretary of State had earlier said that the views of local people were of paramount importance and that in a series of polls the great majority of people in both Halton and Warrington had made it plain that they were opposed to any change in the existing structure.
Now there is this order giving effect to the commission's final recommendation that Halton and Warrington should each be accorded unitary status. I feel bound to say that I deplore the Government's decision. However, the decision having been made, I feel that Cheshire County Council is to be applauded for having decided to co-operate with the two borough councils, thus ensuring a smooth and timely transfer of staff and services. I understand that the county council has already established good working relations with the two other councils and that detailed protocols have been agreed between the three authorities guiding their new relationships. Indeed, their leaders have jointly signed a declaration of commitment to that end.
I am glad that the order before us provides that it should not take effect until 1st April 1998. Even so, the task facing the three authorities is enormous and it has to be undertaken against a background of significant reductions in public expenditure. Therefore, I express the hope that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, when he comes to reply in a moment, will agree to ask his right honourable friend the Secretary of State to consider sympathetically the case for providing all three of the reorganising councils with the additional resources that they will certainly need to achieve their joint purpose.
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