THE imposition of a single authority for Durham has been a utter failure and an insult to local democracy.

North Yorkshire, be aware of the pitfalls and how a large unitary like County Durham was a further nail in the coffin of local democracy and how central government is stealthily taking control over local government.

The scourge of local government reviews, as I remember, was a major talking point in the 1960’s which saw Lanchester, Stanley and Consett Urban District Council’s merge in 1974 and become Derwentside District Council.

Even then some people thought the traditional two tier system of the county and district councils with services split between the two, was inefficient, outdated and confusing to the public.

Durham County Council promoted the idea of a single county council.

We like other district councils believed that a single unitary council based on the county boundary, with a population twice the size of Newcastle City Council would be too large and seriously remote to local needs.

The referendum for a county unitary council seen 76 per cent of those who voted were against.

The axe was to fall on Derwentside District Council which meant the abolition of a highly successful authority which was a ultimate disgrace to local democracy and totally unacceptable.

Indeed a legal challenge was considered on the basis that the Government had acted unlawfully and had refused to take into account the views of the people of County Durham.

Scrutiny of huge local authorities like Durham County Council is extremely difficult and mistakes can be easily hidden.

There is mystery surrounding the financing of local government, few people understand how the system really works yet millions are affected by it.

If local democracy is to survive, local authorities must be more than agents of Whitehall, which is the direction that central government are taking us.

Quangocracy is but a further example which is replacing democratic accountability and peoples rights with a myriad of charters which are devoid of public scrutiny.

There are now more appointed bodies locally who have taken over the powers of local government, nobody knows who they are, they don’t know who they are accountable to and yet these are in fact spending more money than the whole of local government put together.

Three years before the demise of Derwentside District Council through our partnership working with the private sector we did not increase the council tax.

Sixty years ago before local reviews we had police on the beat, NHS hospitals, from cottage to general hospitals, GP practices across the district, a public transport system that actually included a first class railway network and many more schools than what we have now. I could go on but what we have now is a very poor public transport system and no railway network a remote county council that promotes “Altogether Better”, better for who.

Yes, we have senior officers that are highly paid and councillors that are following a lucrative career with a pension, I ask you “Better for who”.

We had magnificent plans that were deliverable for the steelworks site at Berry Edge, a multi-million investment sports village, indoor tennis courts of Andy Murray standard, a football stadium, a swimming centre, running tracks, a cricket academy sponsored by a Indian Magnate and serious interest in developing a ski slope with snow all the year round.

All lost with the imposition of a unitary council for County Durham.

Unfortunately, local government reviews have not been about improving services for the people but simply about power and the need to keep control of local government.