While the rest of the political world enjoys its annual brief holiday to San Seriffe on 1 April, there will be a major change to local government arrangements in seven English counties. The changes are due to the introduction of more unitary councils: in five cases, all the districts within a county will be abolished as the county council takes their services. In the other two, the county council will be divided into two unitary authorities. The changes are as follows:
The Bedfordshire county council, which has not included Luton since 1997, is being abolished. Bedford borough council, under its directly-elected Mayor Frank Branston (Independent), will become a unitary council. The remaining two districts, Mid Bedfordshire district council and South Bedfordshire district council, will be merged into a new Central Bedfordshire unitary council which will be elected on 4 June based on new boundaries. After 1 April but before the election, there will be an interim Central Bedfordshire council consisting of current county and district councillors within its boundaries. For details see the Bedfordshire (Structural Change) Order 2008: SI 2008 No. 907.
Cheshire, from which Halton and Warrington were lost to be unitary authorities in the 1990s, is being split in two and Cheshire county council will be abolished. Elections were held last year to the ‘shadow’ unitary authorities, which will come into full power on 1 April. Congleton borough council, Crewe and Nantwich borough council and Macclesfield borough council will be abolished and replaced by Cheshire East council, while Chester city council, Ellesmere Port and Neston borough council and Vale Royal borough council will be abolished and replaced by Cheshire West and Chester council. As a result of the elections being held last year, there are no local elections in Cheshire this year. See the Cheshire (Structural Change) Order 2008: SI 2008 No. 634.
Cornwall is to become a unitary council as of 1 April. This means the abolition on that date of Caradon district council, Carrick district council, Kerrier district council, North Cornwall district council, Penwith district council and Restormel borough council, while Cornwall county council will run all services together with an implementation executive comprising members of the abolished districts. On 4 June there will be a full election to a new 123-member council. Details are in the Cornwall (Structural Change) Order 2008: SI 2008 No. 491.
County Durham, which lost Darlington to unitary status in the 1990s, is now to become a unitary authority itself. The term of the county council which began in 2005 was shortened so that a larger county council and interim unitary council could be elected in 2008 to prepare; on 1 April the Durham county council will take over from the districts. This means the abolition of Chester-le-Street district council, Derwentside district council, Durham city council, Easington district council, Sedgefield borough council, Teesdale district council and Wear Valley district council. Details are in the County Durham (Structural Change) Order 2008: SI 2008 No. 493.
Northumberland was untouched by the 1990s changes but is now to become a unitary council covering the whole county. As with Durham, the council elected in 2005 was terminated a year earlier so that a larger county council and shadow unitary council was elected in 2008 ready to take over. On 1 April, Northumberland county council will take over and the six lower tier authorities will be abolished: Alnwick district council, Berwick-upon-Tweed borough council, Blyth Valley borough council, Castle Morpeth borough council, Tynedale district council and Wansbeck district council. Details in the Northumberland (Structural Changes) Order 2008: SI 2008 No. 494.
Shropshire lost Telford and Wrekin to create a unitary authority in the 1990s, and is now itself to be the unitary authority for the rest of the county. On 1 April, Bridgnorth district council, North Shropshire district council, Oswestry borough council, Shrewsbury and Atcham borough council and South Shropshire district council will be abolished. The existing Shropshire county council will continue along with an ‘implementation executive’ made up of some members of district councils until elections on 4 June, when a new 74-member unitary council will be elected. Details are in the Shropshire (Structural Change) Order 2008: SI 2008 No. 492.
Having lost the district of ‘Thamesdown’ (which consisted of, and is now called, Swindon) in the 1990s, Wiltshire is now to have a unitary authority for the rest of the county. On 1 April, Kennet district council, North Wiltshire district council, Salisbury district council and West Wiltshire district council will all be abolished and Wiltshire county council will run all services with an implementation executive including members of the district councils. Full elections will be held on 4 June to a 98-member unitary council. Details are in the Wiltshire (Structural Change) Order 2008: SI 2008 No. 490.