Basildon and Thurrock councils will consider signing a Memorandum of Understanding, confirming their intentions to work more closely when proposing future governance arrangements for the boroughs of Basildon and Thurrock.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) sets out guidance for how the two councils will work together over matters related to Local Government Reform – the reorganisation of local government that was delayed last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MoU will seek to maximise the economic and social benefits of a new local authority for Basildon and Thurrock – ensuring that the differences and unique opportunities present in each borough are respected, and the voices from both boroughs are equally represented.
The Government is expected to release its Devolution and Local Recovery White Paper later this year, which will outline recommendations for the future structure of local government. The MoU will help Basildon and Thurrock councils take control of the decisions made about the two boroughs, and develop a robust proposal for the area. This could include the creation of a new unitary authority for the area, one which provides all of the local government services for residents in Basildon and Thurrock, something Thurrock has enjoyed since 1998.
Cllr Rob Gledhill, Leader of Thurrock Council, said: "South West Essex is alive with opportunity. It is the beating heart of the Essex economy and a major player in linking London with the rest of the country and the rest of the world. Yet there is so much more that can be unlocked and achieved for our residents and our businesses.
"Our ambition is for the people and businesses of Thurrock and Basildon to realise the potential of this region and to make sure that growth is inclusive – putting them at the forefront of the opportunities that local decision-making at the most local level through proper devolution can achieve.
"As we move to making this future a reality for South West Essex, we, the Leaders of Thurrock and Basildon, are publishing a Memorandum of Understanding which commits both of our councils to joint working and looking at all reform options, including the creation of a new unitary South West Essex Council that is comprised of our two authorities."
Cllr Gavin Callaghan, Leader of Basildon Council, said: "We already understand that in our region, Basildon and Thurrock share a meaningful geography. Many local families live and work across the borough borders. What we are seeking to explore is whether or not this is a once in a generation opportunity to put the decisions and issues that affect local people back into the hands of local people.
"That is why we see this as the start of an exciting process, and we welcome this agreement to get the ball rolling. The government has made clear that two-tier local government has had its day and unitary authorities are the direction of travel. Reform is inevitable. We can’t let the government or Essex County Council decide on our future.
"Our Memorandum of Understanding ensures Basildon and Thurrock will be the masters of our own shared destiny. We want to be on the front foot and looking at all the possibilities for local government reform. We know this is a long road ahead and there may be other options we will look at along the way. However South West Essex has an identity and an industry that could make for a formidable council to rival any major UK city. This is a chance we must seize."