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Unitary Councils for Bedfordshire? – “Ask us in 2010” say Labour

Labour hope that local government reorganisation will go away until 2010. That’s their response to the Government on the reform of Bedfordshire’s local government arrangements.

On Monday 18th June at a meeting of Luton Borough Council’s Executive the new Labour administration at the Town Hall published their response to the consultation on the two proposals from Bedfordshire County Council and Bedford Borough Council to change the structure of local government in Bedfordshire.

Unlike the response earlier in the year that was prepared by the previous Liberal Democrat administration, and endorsed by the full council, this new response was remarkably lacking in detail or opinion.

While they appeared to criticise the government for the way it has handled this process, the Labour administration were not prepared to make any comments on the current proposals, suggest an alternative approach, or point out the impact that any change could have on Luton.

In effect, all the response really said was “the merits of the existing proposals cannot be properly judged” and “the debate on unitary status be delayed until 2010”. They made this last point in spite of the fact that the government has specifically said, in a statement by Ruth Kelly MP on Thursday 26 October 2006, that there is only “a short window of opportunity” for proposals to be considered.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Andy Strange said, “This response by Luton Labour shows a total abdication of their responsibility to show leadership. They seem to prefer fudge, delay, and not upsetting anyone instead of setting out a clear position and taking part in the debate. It is as if they want to hide their head under the duvet and hope the whole thing goes away.”

“While not advocating change, the Liberal Democrats were ready, if change is to happen, to state their views and fight for the interests of Luton. The move to having unitary councils in Bedfordshire would be a big step and will have an impact on the Council and people of Luton. It a shame that the new administration don’t seem to recognise how important this is.”

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