Both Councils have previously set out that it is important to them to protect frontline services and this proposal would contribute to services being protected in the South Hams and West Devon areas. There would however be some changes as a result of forming a single Council.
What would change by creating one new Council?
- There would be just one district council covering the areas currently administered by South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council from April 2020
- There would be a reduction of Councillors for the new Council. We estimate that the numbers would reduce to around 48 (although the final number will be subject to the outcome of a Boundary Review)
- The elected term of current councillors would be extended by 12 months to 2020 allowing for the Boundary Review in 2018/19
- Businesses, public sector and voluntary organisations operating across the area would only have to work with one Council rather than two, with the same policies and procedures across the new Council area
- The new Council would have one budget across the new area giving greater flexibility
- The new Council would cost up to £500,000 a year less to run than the current two Councils
- Council Tax levels would need to equalise. Currently the Council Tax in West Devon is higher than in South Hams. South Hams Council Tax would therefore need to increase to the same level as West Devon over a period of up to 10 years. (See Council Tax Implications)
- Additional income generated by Council Tax equalisation could be invested in community schemes, affordable housing and service improvements
- The Council would have a new name, but it would keep the areas covered by South Hams and West Devon the same, preserving their identities and those of the local communities
What wouldn’t change?
- You would still be able to vote for a local district councillor to represent your community
- The same frontline staff would continue to deliver the services that the community receives from South Hams and West Devon councils
- Services which are the responsibility of Devon County Council would be unaffected by this proposal (e.g. Education, Social Services and highways)
- Parish and Town councils would still exist and operate in the way they do now
Borough Mayor and District Chairman roles explained
West Devon Borough Council currently has a Mayor and South Hams has a Chairman to carry out civic duties. The Mayor and the Chairman are chosen every year at the Council’s Annual Meeting and must be one of the elected Members of the Council. They are the civic representative (attending events and undertaking ceremonial duties) of the Council and have no formal power on decision making except to chair the Council meeting where they must:
- uphold and promote the purposes of the Constitution, and interpret the Constitution where necessary
- preside over meetings of the Council so that business can be carried out efficiently and with regard to the rights of Councillors and the interests of the community
- hold the casting vote in the event of a situation arising at a council meeting where political parties cannot reach a majority decision
The new Council would be formed as a District Council with a Chairman rather than a Borough Council with a Mayor. Borough status in the United Kingdom is granted by Royal Charter to local government districts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The status is purely honorary, and does not give any additional powers to the council or inhabitants of the district. Borough Councils are allowed to award the status of “honorary freeman of the borough”. Once formed the new Council could apply to the Privy Council to be granted Borough status if it so wished.