MP Graham Jones has come under fire after calling for Hyndburn council to be merged into a Pennine ‘super authority’.
Mr Jones says a unitary authority for east Lancashire – rather than the current two-tier system of borough and county council – would help ease the pain of local authority budget cuts.
He says big savings could be made by merging six authorities into one, and cutting a layer of bureaucrats paid for by the public purse.
But the idea has been labelled ‘disastrous’ by Hyndburn’s Conservative leader, Peter Britcliffe.
Mr Jones, who is MP for Hyndburn and also a county councillor, said the two-tier system runs at ‘huge cost’ and claims a unitary authority would be much less remote.
He said: “We have got to take a strategic view of how we can save money and provide local services and think less about ourselves and more about the residents.
“In times of austerity we have to think about working collaboratively. We have six finance officers and six heads of legal service, plus chief executives, plus a whole host of bureaucrats down at Preston.”
But Coun Britcliffe said he was ‘appalled’ at the proposal.
He said: “It would be disastrous to have one big authority. The one thing about Hyndburn is that, because it’s relatively small, policy makers keep their ear to the ground. Once you get a bigger authority you just become a number. If it’s not broke why mend it?”
Labour council leader Miles Parkinson said a merger would be costly and complex.
He said: “Councils across east Lancashire will have to share and work together more in the coming years, but whether they have to be merged is a different question.
“It’s a bit like going down a street and you see you’ve got the different shop fronts, but once you go into the shops all those shops are joined together.
“The number one for the rate payer in the borough is to make sure the rates are kept low and the services are retained.”
At the full council meeting Independent group leader Coun Nick Collingridge proposed merging Hyndburn with neighbouring Rossendale – the councils already work together on services including planning and waste delivery.
Coun Collingridge said: “We feel this may be the time to start talks on amalgamating the two to create a more viable council.”
He added: “More joint working should be explored with other local councils to help enhance further reductions in the cost base.”