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Herts County Council leader David Williams claims Herts 'super-council' could save £100m

The leader of Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) has claimed devolution is the key to responding to the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

The authority is pushing for structural reform of local government which would see the county's 10 district and borough councils – including East Herts, North Herts and Broxbourne – disappear.

Their leaders have rejected the proposed ‘super-council’ to represent the county’s 1.2 million residents as too remote and unwieldy.

Cllr David Williams (39026644)
Cllr David Williams (39026644)

But at a meeting this week, Cllr David Williams, the county council’s leader, doubled down on the plans and said they could bring substantial benefits by reducing the cost and complexity of local governance.

Rejecting devolution, he claimed, risked responding successfully to the impacts of the pandemic and the looming economic recession.

He claimed early, indicative work had identified potential savings of up to £100m a year through reorganisation and transformation to a new single unitary organisation and £70m year-on-year savings for two new unitary organisations for Hertfordshire.

He told fellow members on Tuesday (July 21): “The Government has made clear that the forthcoming Devolution White Paper will set out the Government’s intention to strengthen local institutions, including establishing more unitary councils.

"Their objectives include reducing the cost and complexity of local governance, provide more modern and responsive services for the taxpayer and to reinvigorate local communities.

“We all need to provide clear, collective leadership to Hertfordshire as a place and achieve a consensus across a broad range of residents and partners, including health, business, community and voluntary organisations and the police.

“We are committed to exploring the best way to organise ourselves to continue to meet the needs of our residents and provide the most effective support for the county’s economic recovery.

“To assist discussions that now need to take place, I am today making available some initial analysis, developed by working with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), on how structural reform of local government can provide stronger and more accountable leadership, improve services and outcomes for residents.

“Such reform would also improve financial stability in the years ahead by enabling significant cost savings for taxpayers by removing duplication, increasing efficiency and joining up approaches to public service delivery.”

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