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Leadership of borough council in North West pursue unitary status

Chorley Borough Council’s leadership wants to break away from Lancashire and become a unitary.

The council is yet to formally adopt the policy but its Labour leader Alistair Bradley is promoting it.

He and local Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle have put the plan to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who they said had urged them to demonstrate local backing for the plan before it was put to the Government.

Pickles has told those supporting a number of reorganisation plans elsewhere that he would give permission only if all authorities involved agreed.

Chorley would be among the smallest unitary councils were it independent.

Cllr Bradley said: “We have been able to introduce a number of improvements since we took control in 2012 but we often find ourselves thwarted by not being in control of all local services, which would help improve the area.

“We believe local services are best provided by local people within our borough and that is why we want put this question to local residents.”

Local government reform would be on the political agenda after the general election and so finding out before that whether local support existed for a unitary would be better than “having something forced upon us”, he said.

Cllr Bradley said he was sure that Lancashire County Council would “recognise that anything that could be done to improve services locally and simplify the current system must be the way forward”.

But county leader Jennifer Mein, also Labour, said: “Whilst it's unclear exactly what councillor Bradley is suggesting we would initially consider a smaller unitary authority the size of Chorley, on its own, unlikely to be financially stable.

“Other authorities much larger than Chorley have entered into similar arrangements and some now find themselves in a critical financial position.

“Government financing is increasingly based on efficient economies of scale and the ability to work across larger areas. Any transition to a smaller authority is likely to disadvantage Chorley in this respect and result in local residents paying more for less.” 

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