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Rumours of new merged council quashed

County Hall North, Horsham, West Sussex. Photo by Derek Martin

County Hall North, Horsham, West Sussex. Photo by Derek Martin

RUMOURS of proposals for a single council authority for the whole of West Sussex have been quashed by a councillors.

An office share plan announced by Horsham District Council and West Sussex County Council at the end of last month sparked rumours the idea was a pilot for a West Sussex-wide unitary authority.

The idea would see an end to the current structure of county and district councils, with just one authority governing the whole county.

But councillors dismissed it happening in the near future.

Littlehampton East county councillor Dr James Walsh, who is also an Arun district and Littlehampton town councillor, said the idea could appeal to voters but he was ‘unaware’ of any current plans.

He said: “15 years ago, I was dead against unitary authorities but for all the changes in local government, I have completely changed my view.

“I think there is a strong case for one or two unitary authorities in West Sussex, perhaps splitting the coastal and rural areas.”

He added: “It would need approval from central Government and there is no appetite for that at the moment.”

Leader of neighbouring Worthing Borough Council Paul Yallop said he could not envisage the idea in the near future.

He said: “I think it would be too big for West Sussex as a whole to become a unitary authority.

“It seems Horsham is taking advantage of its geography, in terms of moving into County Hall North. I haven’t heard that it is being used as a pilot.”

Councils sharing resources is not a new idea, with nearby Adur and Worthing councils having combined a number of services since 2007.

The partnership has saved more than £10 million in that period, with around £3 million saved in 2013 alone.

Worthing Borough Council has also recently welcomed West Sussex registrars into its base at Portland House, in a smaller-scale partnership with County Hall.

Mr Yallop said: “We used to get people saying we were mad, but now the partnership is well known. I think the Adur and Worthing initiative is the way to go.”

The nearest example of a unitary authority is Portsmouth City Council.

 

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