Borough rejects proposals to unite with neighbours

    Tonbridge

    Plans to merge council authorities in West Kent and Medway will not be going ahead.

    Nicolas Heslop, leader of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, revealed a private meeting was held between local council chiefs last month to discuss the possibilities of a move, in response to the Government’s devolved powers agenda.

    After some discussion it was concluded that this is ‘not the right time’, to consider combining the local authorities, given the uncertainty created by the EU referendum vote.

    However, Mr Heslop believes greater collaboration between authorities will be beneficial to residents.

    The national devolvement agenda, released last year, was designed to enable local councils to have greater power over housing, transport and planning policy. It comes amid the Government placing further cuts on individual councils’ budgets over the next four years.

    Mr Heslop said: “We have had quite detailed joint discussions with Kent County Council about how we can have a two-tier system of government through closer working between local authorities in West Kent.

    “One of the things that could come out of devolved government powers could be an elected mayor for Kent, which is not something I think residents would favour.”

    However, the borough leader did confirm that council bosses will continue to meet to see what shared policy areas can be taken forward.

    There are already some shared working agreements in place between councils in West Kent.

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