What is a Unitary Authority?
A unitary authority is a type of local authority that has a single tier and is responsible for all local government functions within its area or performs additional functions which elsewhere in the relevant country are usually performed by national government or a higher level of sub-national government. You can read more here
Unitary Authority “future for Surrey” says MP
Surrey County Council has been bidding to become a Unitary Authority. However, after recent changes to government policy, it remains unclear whether this will still be going ahead. Cllr Tim Oliver, leader of Surrey County Council, has been advocating the move saying:
“The motivation behind a single unitary authority in Surrey is to give more power to residents through engagement and devolution to a much more relevant local level, and to deliver a more effective local government system, one that is simpler and cheaper for the residents of Surrey.”
In a recent Interview with Angela Richardson MP, we asked whether she agreed with Cllr Oliver about Surrey becoming a Unitary Authority. She had this to say:
“I believe that it’s the future for Surrey and for democracy in Surrey”
“Not everybody’s going to agree with it, but I think we can’t stand in the way of progress and change, and I think it’s probably important that we look at reorganizing our local democracy, and my understanding is that all political parties at county level were signed up to this in principle.”
“During COVID we had the local ‘Resilience Forum’, that was at a county level and it was incredibly effective, they delivered really well for residents. When we were trying to get the meals out to those who were shielding, that was delivered on a Surrey level, and that did an amazing job, we got so many parcels of food out to residents, so I think there is evidence that it works well.”
Addressing concerns about spending public money on the scheme should Surrey not be selected this time around, Mrs Richardson said:
“All the consultation work and the money spent on that is not wasted, because it’s there in situ ready to go for when this happens again.”
Surrey is just one county bidding to become a Unitary Authority. If successful it will join the likes of Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Northumberland, Shropshire and Cornwall. There are currently 56 existing Unitary Authorities in the UK.
There are however objections to the move. Cllr Fiona White has said in a recent interview with the Guildford Dragon:
“such wide-ranging changes to local councils should not take place without a wide and open consultation with all residents who would be affected and not just organizations such as town and parish councils or residents’ and community groups. It must be a proper consultation with a willingness to change the outcome as a result.”
We would be interested to hear what you think about this issue. Do you believe it will streamline local government and save money, or is it a vanity project? Please leave a comment.
- Surrey Map: Hillbers News