Labour councillors in Worthing proposed spending £50,000 to look into the possibility, saying it would be a ‘useful first step’ towards forming a unitary coastal authority.
The two councils have shared a joint management structure since 2008.
At a meeting of the full council on Tuesday night, Rebecca Cooper (Lab, Marine) accused West Sussex County Council of having ‘little or no idea or understanding of the needs of this coastal area’, adding that the authority was ‘more of a burden than a benefit’.
She asked: “Do we wish to continue as a small borough and district or do we think that the people of Worthing and Adur deserve a more coherent approach?”
Ms Cooper said a recent Local Government Association peer review had made ‘a strong case’ for exploring the benefits of a merger, which she felt would be sound ‘given our current economic circumstances’.
She added: “We think our populations ultimately deserve and will be best served by a unitary coastal authority – and considering a merger of Worthing and Adur is a useful first step for this. Let’s not retreat and regress.”
The idea was supported by Bob Smytherman (Lib Dem, Tarring) who felt a unitary authority would see elected officials held to account for their decisions, rather than being able to lay the blame for all their woes on other parties and other councils.
He added: “We need a single unitary council for West Sussex and to actually devolve real power and real responsibility to those elected members to be held to account.”
That, though, was the only support offered to the Labour suggestion.
Tom Wye (Con, Tarring) said: “I think it would be an absolute waste of £50,000. A total and utter waste. I don’t think the people of Worthing want it anyway. The people of Adur might, but I’m certain the people of Worthing won’t.”
Leader Daniel Humphreys refused to discuss the idea, adding: “Absolutely no evidence has been put forward that it would save a penny for the residents of Adur and Worthing.”
And Alex Harman (Con, Selden) objected not only to the idea of a merger, but to Worthing borough being described by some as ‘little’.
Mr Harman said the term belittled the councillors and the work being carried out by the borough, adding: “Personally, I’m proud of our ‘little borough’ and I would not ever support any move to try and merge us with Adur District or West Sussex County Council.
“We should be proud of our identity.”