Thursday, 23 December 2010

Time for Greater Westmorland

ANOTHER step will be taken in the New Year to create Greater Westmorland. It’s about time too.
The disastrous local government reorganisation by the Conservatives back in 1974 has been damaging for democracy and the standing of Town and County Halls throughout the land.
Now that we have a Conservative-led coalition, which also includes those champions of local democracy, the Liberal Democrats, there is some hope that traditional boundaries and the authorities that matched them can be restored.
There is already a grassroots movement behind the installation of traditional county boundary signs. The politicians need to catch up with this band wagon.
Two days before Christmas South Lakeland District Council crowed that its Cabinet has given the go-ahead to plans for a second shared service with Eden District Council.
Councillors backed the creation of a business plan for a shared Revenues and Benefits System following a successful trial of a shared IT service between the two councils.
Eden’s IT Manager was officially appointed as the shared IT Services Manager earlier this month in a move that will save SLDC £54,000 per year.
The full shared IT service will officially launch on 1 April 2011 saving an estimated £378,000 over the next seven years.
Brought together under the one manager the shared service will offer a more efficient, resilient and improved service both internally and externally. Staffing costs will be reduced with staff able to share their skills and knowledge across both authorities, said a statement.
Although this decision was driven by the Government’s cost-cutting agenda, it actually should be seen as a step towards the merger of the two authorities.
Eden’s Chief Executive is coming up for retirement so the obvious move is to appoint a joint chief officer for Eden and South Lakeland who will drive forward the merger.
There would be no need for new redundancies. Natural waste and retirements should do the job. There would be massive savings on back-room services and buildings, so that front line services could be protected.
Better still the old Westmorland County can be reinvented. By the time that is ready, say in five years time, all links with the Carlisle-centred Cumbria County Council can by severed and we can be back with a single-tier local authority which matches the loyalties and connections of the people who live there.
What a great thought to take into the New Year.

1 comment:

  1. indeed, a little further afield it's about time the 'welcome to Lancashire' signs were removed from the Blackpool and Blackburn boundaries - and indeed any border between 'administrative' Lancashire and the real Lancashire that served us well for almost 1,000 years. And two-tier authorities serve us poorly, spreading confusion and creating a political class at County Hall(s) that wield great power yet remain obscure, while their local colleagues take the brunt of the criticism.