Thursday, 24 October 2013

Deanes and local government reorganisation

The campaign to save Deanes school continues and I wish it well. I remain of the view that the decision is misguided in that it fails to acknowledge the demand on school places which we will see in coming years or the importance of the network of inter connecting schools with different strengths that exist across south east Essex. However the whole process does have an interesting twist in connection with my ongoing view that local government could be delivered more efficiently, cost effectively and democratically by forming a single unitary authority covering Southend, Castle Point & Rochford. At present Southend is a unitary authority with control over all areas to include education whereas Castle Point and Rochford are part of 2 tier Essex with responsibility for eductaion resting with the County Council rather than the local district councils. The main reason that Southend (and Thurrock) successfully campaigned to obtain unitary status and to break away from 2 tier Essex was the view that the County Council was dominated by representatives from mid and north Essex and that south Essex didn't get it's fair share of the services or funding. We believed that whilst south Essex was the engine room of the county the money on new roads etc tended to be spent elsewhere. Following the split the remainder of south Essex is potentially even more isolated than before. With the sad departure of Stephen Castle from the County Council in May, who was always a friend and supporter of South Essex, the situation appears to be even worse with the power round the cabinet table being based well away from south Essex. It is interesting to ponder whether if we had a south east Essex unitary council, or indeed even a south Essex unitary council, the decision on the future of Deanes would be centered round the views of south Essex councillors and dare I suggest that the current situation and decision might be different. Unitary authorities are all about giving local councillors real power over what happens in their own area and not artificially seperating local government services between 2 different types of authority.

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