A powerful directly chosen mayor could oversee the entirety of Essex as part of a new concept outlined by county council chiefs, and in the latest stage of the dispute over the fate of decision making in Essex (England), all districts and the county council could be axed and replaced with up to four unitary authorities.
The proposal was outlined in an email viewed by the Echo newspaper and sent to Southend party leaders by the borough’s chief executive Alison Griffin, and it explains Essex County Council leader David Finch, along with the council’s chief executive Gavin Jones, wants to explore the creation of a Greater Essex Mayoral Combined Authority which would operate above the newly established councils.
It would be managed by an elected mayor who could have oversight of budgets, county-wide development schemes, the police and fire services and planning, although the mayor’s authorities would need to be settled through discussions with the central government.
The email goes onto note the county council will not be endeavouring to become its own unitary authority, leaving it unclear whether it would join one of the larger authorities, but the plan, which is in its very early stages, has already been endorsed by Simon Clarke, minister for regional growth and local government.
The response is a stark difference to Simon Clarke’s apathetic acknowledgement to a separate and significantly more modest plan from council leaders in the south of the county who have proposed the formulation of a South Essex Combined Authority.
And Southend council leader Ian Gilbert has emphasised that the south Essex plan remains the priority.
Independent deputy council leader, Ron Woodley, speculated that the county council plan could mean Southend Council uniting with Rochford and Castle Point and Thurrock joining with Basildon and Brentwood.
The other two authorities he said could be created by merging councils in the northeast and the north-west.
Mr Woodley continued that it appeared as if they want a combined authority over the top of the unitaries but why? You don’t need a combined authority above them.
There is no way they should have that sort of control or power, and watch out for the backstabbing, secretive meetings and truckloads of pie in the sky proposals from the usual Councillors wanting to be in the running for the mayoral position.
Well, this is wonderful, another tier of bureaucracy that everyone will have to pay for!