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Rap for plans to axe council; TAMWORTH: Leader claims 'wheels have come off' shake-up.

Byline: By Justine Halifax

"CONCENTRATE on what you should be doing and let us get on with our own jobs."

That was the scathing comment from Tamworth Borough Council leader Jeremy Oates as he revealed the "wheels had come off" Labour's plans to abolish the council.

It follows an "obscure" written ministerial statement from the department of Local Government Secretary, Ruth Kelly, which admits there is not enough cash to plough ahead with local government restructuring plans.

Now instead of scrapping district or county councils on a large scale by converting them into unitaries, the statement says the Government will have to "prioritise" a limited number of proposals.

The U-turn has been welcomed by Tamworth's leading Tory group who claim the move would have only made councils more distant to the people they were set up to serve.

Coun Oates, said: "It's another shambles for Ruth Kelly as the Government runs out of cash.

"Hot on the heels of the Home Information Packs fiasco, more wheels have come off Ruth Kelly's departmen with an effective admission that widespread local government restructuring will be too expensive to fund.

"Re-arranging local government will do nothing to improve local services and will make town halls more distant from local people.

"Working families and pensioners, already suffering from punishing council tax hikes, could see their bills rise even more to pay for this politically-motivated restructuring."

The U-turn follows reports of infighting between Ms Kelly and Treasury Chief Secretary Stephen Timms over the plans.

It is claimed the Treasury was concerned reorganisation costs "may overrun", was "a waste of time", and there was no guarantee of efficiency savings.

It is believed the costs of converting district councils to unitaries would be around pounds 121 per head - equivalent to pounds 345 per council tax-paying household.

Mr Oates added: "If the Government really wanted to save money, it should start by scrapping John Prescott's tiers of regional bureaucrats. The best people to make decisions about Tamworth come from Tamworth.

"The message for Government is simple: concentrate on what you should be doing and let us get on with our own jobs. Stop imposing restructures and distraction from delivering services."
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jun 15, 2007
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