The threat of being merged into one massive council

There seems to be a disagreement among the senior journalists at the Evening Echo. Some support the idea of merging all the district and borough councils along the north side of the Thames , so there would be one big council covering Thurrock, Basildon, Castle Point, Rochford and Southend. Others are against it.

Chris sent the following letter to the Echo, opposing the idea:

I’m sorry to be so blunt , but I totally disagree with your editorial supporting a single council for Thurrock, Basildon, Castle Point, Rochford and Southend.

First of all , I doubt if it will solve the problem of Southend’s financial situation. The cause of this is the government’s unfair and rigid policies on funding. They aren’t going to change a national policy just to help us out.

You don’t need ‘streamlined’ big councils to be efficient – Rochford is small, but has one of the lowest spends per head of population in the country. In fact, I’d expect the costs of reorganisation to be so high that residents would be paying higher council tax for years. Think of all those consultants that will be hired to ‘advise’ on reorganisation, all those expensive office conversions and recruitment programmes etc.

Then there’s the issue of democracy – people want to feel that their views are listened to. Residents also want to see their area properly represented – see the rise of the Canvey Independence Party as an example. I help edit a website at www.onlinefocus.org, to help residents know what is going on.

If we have a bloated council stretching from Tilbury to Foulness, councillors will have to cover such large areas that they won’t be able to know their residents properly. At the moment in Rochford, for example, the council consists of 39 councillors. We know our communities , from Rawreth to Foulness. So if you have an issue near your home, you can always talk to a councillor who knows your patch. With a North Thames Authority, you’ll probably find that the matter is dealt with by a bureaucrat sitting in an office 15 miles away, or by a panel of councillors who have never heard of your street.

There’s also the question of which areas will get the goodies, and which areas will get stitched up. For example, Rochford District decided to allow building on playing fields in West Rayleigh to create a country park in Hawkwell. Totally unfair, but at least the “goodies” stayed in the district. With a North Thames Authority, which areas are going to get the benefits -and which would be stitched up?

In fact “Authority” is the right word for it – it won’t be anything close to a democratic , representative council. Just an authority that charges residents plenty of council tax but immune to public opionion.