Local authority leaders in Essex are looking into “simplifying” the county’s structures of governance.

Council leader and chief executives from across the county met last week to discuss the future of local government in Essex.

The county is currently made up of one county council, 12 city, borough and district councils and two unitary councils.

The meeting followed exploration of a possible South Essex Unitary Authority involving Southend, Thurrock, Basildon, Brentwood, Rochford and Castle Point.

However, that plan has met resistance from the government, with Mark Francois MP labelling it an “unnecessary layer of bureaucracy”.

The Tory MP for Rayleigh and Wickford said: “None of us are convinced that this white elephant would be of benefit to our constituents in Essex."

On Thursday, July 30, Essex County Council hosted a meeting to discuss local government reform ahead of a White Paper due to be published this autumn.

Cllr David Finch, Essex County Council leader, said: “Across Essex we have one of the most complex political and organisational geographies in the UK.

“We all agree that a sustainable solution for Greater Essex is needed and the opportunity Local Government Reform presents us with can help us unleash our reform potential, deepen community engagement, have more control over funding and streamline processes for residents.

“It is important that we act now and progress with developing proposals so that we are taken seriously by Government and aren’t left behind and ensure that Essex is well positioned for future opportunities which see all residents and businesses benefit.”

The meeting, attended by Essex's police and fire commissioners, was chaired by Cllr Neil Stock, OBE, Tendring District Council leader.

He said: “Councils in Essex deliver excellent services to residents, both independently and collectively, and we have the opportunity to now capitalise on this opportunity and our recent experience of working as a strong partnership to deliver for the residents of Essex and present to government our ideas around the future of Local Government.

“Talking about reforming local organisational structures can be difficult and challenging, but attendees were all committed to keeping the residents and businesses at the heart of our thinking and ensuring we get the best possible deal and local government structure for them.”

Essex’s council leaders will reconvene in September where the council will outline proposals to be submitted following the White Paper being published.

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