Unitary plans get the go ahead

Photo Ian Robinson'Chorley Aerial'Chorley Town Centre'Town Hall and magistrates court
Photo Ian Robinson'Chorley Aerial'Chorley Town Centre'Town Hall and magistrates court
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Chorley Council is to press ahead with plans to become a unitary authority.

Councillors voted in favour of further investigation of the move at a special meeting of the council on Thursday evening.

Now residents could get the opportunity to vote on the issue at a referendum next
autumn.

Coun Alistair Bradley, leader of the council, said: “With the budget pressures on all local authorities we cannot continue with the current format so we have to look at what alternatives are out there to get the best for Chorley residents.

“What we’ve agreed to do is fully investigate the viability of delivering all council services to see if it would get a better deal for local
taxpayers.

“And we have already seen another local authority in Lancashire keen to investigate the same move.

“We will provide detailed information to residents as we pull together the business case because it’s important people can make an informed choice and we wouldn’t progress it any further without the support of residents through a
referendum.”

Chorley’s Conservative opposition do not support the move. And some Labour councillors have reservations, too.

Coun Paul Leadbetter, deputy leader of the Conservative group, said there was a need to look at ways of saving money, but added: “I cannot agree unitary at this time is an appropriate approach,”

Labour’s Alan Whittaker said: “I will vote for it, with some serious reservations.

“I doubt we will be able to deliver all the major services that are required. I don’t think we have the economies of scale to do that.”

He said it was looked at in 1994 and 2004 and added that there would be no demand from the public for, that it would not lead to better services and that it would cost more.

“I suspect it will go nowhere and three years down the line we will be asking ourselves why we went down this route again,” he said.

Labour coun Matthew Crow said: “I believe a transition to unitary government at this time is not advisable.”

He said: “It should not have come to special council, but to full council or debate.”

He said if he supported the move, he “could not face residents on the doorstep”.

However independent coun Ralph Snape said: “I recall 20 years ago, I asked for this in the council chamber and I was told we weren’t big enough.

“But I have to point out we have Buckshaw coming on stream and other areas.”

The investigation process will start immediately, with £80,000 being set aside to consider a different approach to service delivery in the
borough.