LOCAL democracy and accountability will be the victims if Redditch enters into a single tier form of local government.
That’s the verdict of Councillor Bill Hartnett (Lab, Church Hill) in response to a new government White Paper which could see two tier authorities like Worcestershire and Warwickshire, with representatives at both county and district / borough level, reduced to just one.
These could possibly be just the counties alone – or in some new authority completely.
Last week in the Redditch Standard Council Leader Coun Matt Dormer (Con, West) said the current two tier system wasn’t working for the borough and that he was elected ‘to do the best for the town’ and would look at all options.
In neighbouring Warwickshire its five district and borough councils are already fighting against what they saw as an attempted power grab by the county council to set itself up as the one, single tier authority there.
Coun Hartnett said: “Going single tier is not a new idea – it’s been around the block ever since I can remember and it’s not usually split along party lines.
“I have always been of the view that the fewer councils, the less accountability and my view is to keep it local.
“If you have fewer councillors they will be representing more people so you have less chance for accountability.
“At the same time decisions will be made further away – how will people who do not know the area be able to make an informed decision?”
However he acknowledged, as Coun Dormer has, that Redditch gets a raw deal from County Hall in Worcester.
“We have always been the frozen-out north, an urban borough in a rural county, and a new town too that’s closer to Birmingham where a lot of its residents came from,” he said.
“The majority of our transport links go north and the train line stops here, in Redditch, and doesn’t go south.
“I’m not against working with partners, I was the one who took us into the West Midlands Combined Authority, but that’s a more strategic partnership for investment, transport and other links.
“At borough council level we are close to the people making local decisions for local people.”