In Surrey there are currently two tiers of principal local government. Surrey County Council deals with many of the big-budget items including social services, roads and paths, the fire service and waste disposal. The 11 District or Borough Councils (including Mole Valley) deal mainly with planning and development control, housing, refuse collection, recreation, environmental health and some benefit payments.

In some areas of the country these tiers have been combined into a much smaller number of so-called Unitary Councils providing all the services.

  • Supporters of Unitary Councils take the view that there are financial savings to be made from the consolidation of District & Borough services into Unitary Councils covering a wider area. They also say that it's easier for people to understand as there is a single Council to contact about any local problem.
  • Opponents argue that, since these Councils are expected to have a population of at least 300,000, they are inevitably more distant from and less accountable to the communities they are supposed to serve. Furthermore, because there would be many fewer Councils, the number of Councillors would likely also be significantly reduced (perhaps by two-thirds), meaning that each Councillor would represent far more people, less effectively, than the existing combination of District and County Councillors do.

This matters now because a Government proposal to move all local authorities in England to Unitary Councils is expected in the Autumn. In anticipation of the government proposals, Conservative-controlled Surrey County Council has already announced its ambition to, in effect, abolish the District and Borough Councils (including Mole Valley) and to centralise power in a single Unitary Authority, covering the whole of Surrey's 1.2 million population. Recognising that they may be forced to abandon the two- tier system, the 11 Districts and Boroughs are working together to come up with an alternative that retains more local connections to residents by dividing Surrey into 2 or 3 Unitary Councils.

You can also read a press release on behalf of the Mole Valley Liberal Democrat Councillors and a Liberal Democrat policy paper on the way forward for local government.

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