West Sussex County Council leader responds to unitary debate

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WEST Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith has responded to our special investigation on local government structure today (Friday, May 22).

The story saw some councillors call for a unitary authority for West Sussex.

The leader said: “I think unitary authorities are yesterday’s news. We’re blazing a trail for tomorrow, and the day after.

“I read with interest the double page spread last week. Let me just set the record straight.

“The decision to become a unitary authority is not one that can be made by West Sussex County Council. It’s a decision that has to be taken by central

government.

“We didn’t veto any plans last year as your story suggests.  None were on the table.”

She added: “I’ve sometimes likened the concept of unitary authorities to moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic. All you’re doing is changing structures – at huge, huge expense to the public purse and a huge distraction when our focus needs to be on delivering top notch service to our residents.

“Savings do not happen quickly and it can take years and years before any are achieved.

“I believe firmly in local and regional collaboration.

“There’s nowhere else in the UK like West Sussex and there’s nowhere else in the UK like the South East.

“We’re an economic powerhouse in our own right but we need to nurture our economy to ensure it grows. To do that we need a better deal from government.

“For me, fighting for greater devolved powers and freedoms from central government has to be the future for local government.

“That will be our focus because I believe it represents a far better deal for the people of West Sussex.”