“The recommendations of this study would harm local government in Scotland and would leave Renfrewshire with poorer democratic accountability,” said Councillor Kenny MacLaren (SNP – Paisley Northwest) commenting on a report from the University of Sheffield suggesting that the number of councils in Scotland should reduce from 32 to 17, including combining Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire and East and West Dunbartonshire with the City of Glasgow.
The study by University of Sheffield believes that cutting the number of local authorities in Scotland would save money and boost efficiency. However, local authorities in the UK (and Scotland) are significantly larger than their counterparts in Europe, taking in a larger population. In contrast, most European countries have their local authorities covering a smaller area and are more responsive to the needs of their electorate.
Councillor Kenny MacLaren added:
“The recommendations of this study goes against the European norm of smaller, more responsive and powerful local government. Recent publications from broadcaster Lesley Riddoch has highlighted that local authorities in Scotland are seen as remote from the communities they are meant to serve in contrast to what is happening elsewhere in Europe.
“Every so often some bright spark comes out with the idea of sticking councils together to make them larger while claiming that this will save money but the savings never come. They always seem to forget the costs of rebranding everything, introducing new management and personnel structures and other costs, never mind the fact that residents get more and more remote from the people who are meant to represent them.
“Lumping Renfrewshire in with Glasgow and the other councils mentioned, would create the largest local authority area in the UK and would lessen the voices of local residents. There are serious concerns that Renfrewshire lost out when our former health board was abolished and placed in with Greater Glasgow and Clyde but any move to put Renfrewshire in with a Greater Glasgow council would be a democratic disaster.”