|Cllr Greenhalgh (right) with leaders of K&C, Westminster and Secretary of State for Local Gov Eric Pickles (left)|
Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh, Leader of H&F Council, says the proposed merger of services and management of his own, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster councils is good for taxpayers and right for the economic times in which we live.
But Andy Slaughter, our MP, says the merger is "phoney" and will simply lead to more cuts. He also says it's undemocratic because nobody in any of the three areas actually voted for it, which will remove democratic accountability for how those services are being run.
Here's Cllr Greenhalgh:
“Our taxpayers expect us to squeeze every pound and penny to reduce unnecessary costs. We are not creating one ‘super council’, we are creating three slimmer councils with combined resources and expertise. Our residents should not notice the difference except in areas such as adult social care where there will be a marked improvement because we are able to fully integrate health and social care.”The Conservatives website also adds:
"A ‘Sovereignty Guarantee’ has been signed by the three councils to safeguard local autonomy, responsiveness and identity. Each of the councils will retain their own councillors and decision making processes. Services key to local areas, such as housing management, licensing and planning will be not be combined".
But here's Andy Slaughter MP:
"If these proposals are to achieve economies of scale by sharing or merging administrative functions then that it is simply good practice which all councils should be doing at a time of financial stringency and the only remarkable fact is that these self-opinionated council leaders are making a huge fuss about something that should be normal good practice.
However the defensive tone of their statement and the Ruritanian-style “sovereignty guarantee” suggests that something much more worrying is happening here, as indeed it is. By concentrating sensitive and important decision-making functions such as adult social services and children services in one borough they are denying access to hundreds of thousands of people in West London, they are abandoning localism and they are seeking to bind the hands of future administrations who may well have different views particularly if they are of different political persuasions.
Once again this lies entirely contrary to the govt’s rhetoric on devolution of power and it is something for which they have no mandate. It is already the case that elected opposition councillors and members of parliament from different parties are routinely denied information for political purposes and these steps are likely to increase the culture of secrecy that exists within these town halls".So what do you think?