Local Government Boundary Commission for England

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:53 pm on 7th September 2020.

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Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (North of England) (Northern Powerhouse), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Food and Rural Affairs) 8:53 pm, 7th September 2020

I, too, wish to support and endorse the appointment of Professor Colin Mellors. I also wish to spare him vast amounts of unnecessary work.

I wonder whether the Government might consider that, in the midst of the biggest crisis this country has faced since the second world war, it is the wisest thing to ask Professor Mellors, or indeed other parts of the state, to spend the next few years engaging with a top-down restructuring of local government, therefore focusing local authorities’ efforts not on tackling the virus or on providing schooling or care or looking after our local communities, but on looking inwardly—navel contemplating; reorganising the deckchairs on the Titanic—when instead they should be focusing on serving their communities.

I wonder whether the Minister agrees that top-down reorganisation and restructuring is always dangerous because we always find that people take their eye off the main ball and the main focus. In the midst of the biggest crisis since 1945, is it wise—and indeed in touch with public opinion and what is going on in this country— to publish a White Paper that Professor Mellors will now have to get to grips with, as he sets new boundaries in much bigger councils, and sets new electoral limits, and tell him, and indeed, the whole of the local government community, “Spend the next two years navel contemplating, talking to yourselves and rewriting the headed paper, instead of providing support for public health and fighting back against the virus and the economic consequences”?