The four district councils of Canterbury, Dover, Shepway and Thanet are to consider a high level business case into the feasibility of creating a new single council for east Kent.
If approved, this would see the abolition of the existing four districts and the creation of a new single east Kent council – which would be the largest of its kind in the country.
Developed by Local Partnerships and the Local Government Association, the business case explores the advantages and disadvantages of a new single council and identifies the following opportunities should a new, single council be created:
- Economic potential – east Kent is already recognised as a distinct economic area
- A stronger east Kent voice with greater influence at a national and regional level
- Greater economies of scale, greater resilience and more chance to secure funding
- Greater scale to borrow and increase investment in east Kent
- Approximately £6.8m of savings could be achieved within two years
- Transitional costs are expected to be recouped in just over a year
- Potential for greater savings
- Improved customer experience – consistent approach across our services for residents and the potential for improved value for money
- Enhanced quality of services for residents
Approval was originally given to commission a business case by five east Kent councils in July 2016. Ashford Borough Council has announced it no longer intends to be involved in the creation of a single council, but remains strongly committed to working closely with any future new council.
Meetings will now be held to formally consider the four way business case and provide an opportunity for members to consider the local implications. This is before a decision is taken by each council on Wednesday 22 March as to whether to move to the next stage of public engagement.
Cllr Chris Wells, Leader of Thanet District Council and spokesman for the east Kent districts, said: “The business case clearly identifies that the creation of a single east Kent council is an ambitious but logical next step for our councils. The east Kent districts already have a well-established track record of collaboration and sharing services and a new single council could improve and streamline our services. With greater scale and resources it could transform services at a higher quality and lower cost to residents, and strengthen our position economically.
“Members at each council will now have to seriously consider the implications and to determine whether we continue to the next stage. Given the significant changes to local government, we are clear that things cannot continue as they are. It is now for members to consider what happens next.”
After public engagement, if the councils decide to form a new council, approval would be required from the Secretary of State. Should this be granted, it is anticipated that a new council would legally take effect in April 2019, with elections to the new council taking place in May 2019.