Six county councils in northern England look set to retain all
social services responsibility in a proposed shake-up of local
government, writes Craig Kenny.
The possible creation of two regional assemblies in the north has
prompted a review of lower tiers of local government in Lancashire,
Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham, Cheshire and North
If the public votes for regional assemblies this autumn, county and
district councils would be replaced by new unitary authorities,
with options for between one and three per county.
Evidence to the Boundary Committee for England strongly suggests
retaining existing county units. The Social Services Inspectorate
questions the ability of sub-county level authorities to deliver a
full range of social services in the case of both Lancashire and
Some bids for smaller unitary authorities in Lancashire tended to
‘underplay’ the implications of the Children Bill, the
However, the committee had concerns about Cumbria
Council’s ‘weak’ Comprehensive Performance Assessment
and a recent zero-star rating for its social services
The report also raises concerns about the recruitment of specialist
social services staff if North Yorkshire were split into
But the SSI noted that there would be ‘challenging
issues’ in providing social services for a county the size of
Durham, despite the department’s two-star rating.
The county councils are resisting division. North Yorkshire
CC’s leader Councillor John Weighell said that only a single
unitary authority option would preserve the county’s
‘tremendous social care’.