If the proposal to scrap our borough and district councils and create a unitary authority for the whole of Hertfordshire goes ahead it will be an affront to local democracy.

The whole idea of borough and district councils is that local people can influence decisions which affect the quality of their local environment and local facilities and services. Such items include the built environment, parks, leisure, and parking. The council officers and councillors involved need to be familiar with the town and the wishes of its population if they are to do an effective job.

Borough and district councils can serve the people very effectively if they have the funding and the power to do it. Part of the system should be the ability to set council tax rates depending on whether people want plentiful and high quality services, for which they pay more, or minimal services for lower council tax.

The problem the UK has now is that in recent years borough and district councils, not the least Watford, have progressively had their ability to choose council tax rates and to make decisions on matters such as planning and highways stripped away from them. It is now nigh on impossible for Watford Council to turn down planning applications if the proposed development is unwanted and will be bad for the town. Highways, including minor schemes such as cycle routes, are now controlled by the county. The amount of council tax that local councils can raise is now primarily set by central government, and the majority of council tax collected has to be spent on statutory social obligations rather than optional quality of life facilities.

In essence central government has been steadily reducing the power of local councils, maybe with the eventual widespread creation of unitary authorities in mind.

What we need to fight for is not only the retention of our borough and district councils but also the return of proper power and funding to them so they can do their jobs properly and fulfil the principles of democracy.

Peter Hutchinson

By email