Local government should be just that

Bob Brown is right (Letters, 18 April) when he says keeping three levels of local council is not financially viable in the long run, but I fear his preference for abolishing the district councils and keeping East Sussex County Council will not create the best local government in this area.

We are talking about ‘local government’ – note the word ‘local’. Most of us in Lewes district can think of Brighton and Eastbourne as being local, but is Hastings local? Rye? Wadhurst? They would all fall under our main local council if the districts were abolished, and even if you kept town and parish councils (which I would) they wouldn’t be big enough to take on the really significant responsibilities of local government like rubbish, planning, housing, etc.

If Lewes District Council proves too small to be viable in the long run – and it might well do – it would make more sense to seek unitary councils that are slightly larger than the current districts and get rid of the county council. One might even get rid of East and West Sussex and have a ‘Sussex’ strategic 
authority to deal with a handful of broader issues, the way we currently have with the police.

This is why the closer links Lewes District Council is developing with Eastbourne council – which have cross-party support on LDC – are good. They make sense for sharing resources, and they might become the first steps towards a ‘South Downs Council’ or ‘Cuckmere Valley Council’ that groups Lewes district, Eastbourne borough and possibly the southern strip of Wealden.

With national government squeezing the funding for local government (and it’s not likely to come back, even with the economic recovery), we need to think about a solution that makes our local council big enough to operate but still feel local to us.

Chris Bowers

District Councillor
Ouse Valley & Ringmer