Thursday, 24 March 2011

District and County Councils

The District Council and County Council both place the public as their number one priority, yet differ in terms of financing, funding, size and management.

In England, the local government is built around a single-tier / two-tier system. The County council and the district council make up this two-tier system, however each council functions differently in terms of its actions towards the community. Larger towns and cities tend to have just one council that takes on the roles of both the County and District Councils.

Whereas a County Council manages an entire county, the District County is trusted with just a portion of this county, meaning a County Council has a greater budget and therefore a larger influence on a bigger area. Between them, councils are responsible for providing a number of local services and it is the areas of education, social services and housing (in that order) that statistics have revealed take up the most money within the budgets.

County Councils deal with a number of issues including strategic planning for housing, schools and education, public transport, waste disposal methods and schemes, fire and rescue and trading standards. It is due to the scale of the area that the County Council manage that social care becomes a priority. A great deal of time and money is invested into projects that will aid the elderly or those who require medical care.

During our visit to the County Council's cabinet meeting at the Winchester Guildhall, a number of issues were discussed such as policies relating to adult social care. Felicity Hindson, Conservative Member for Meon Valley, questioned the morality behind charging individuals for care in their own homes. The Council also discussed policies concerning 'self directed support', home care and residential services. Above all, it was both the distribution of money into new projects and financial reductions from existing projects that were focused on during the meeting at the Guildhall. To summarise, County Council's have more money to put towards new projects and therefore more financial flexibility. District Council's must, however, invest their money more carefully into the local community.

District council's primarily deal with issues such as refuse collection, planning matters and leisure facilities. Members of the District Council are chosen by the public. Due to the smaller size of the District Council, its actions mainly concern the local community, explaining why issues such as tax collection are dealt with. District Councils also deal with planning applications and building regulations. A potential candidate for the District Council may stand as either a member of a political party or as an independent councillor. Councillor Kelsie Learney (who spoke to us about her roles and responsibilities as a council member) represents the Liberal Democrats, for example.

According to the 'Overview of the 2010/11 Revenue Budget' (available on Hampshire County Council's website) over £1.8 billion was spent within sectors including contracted services, supplies and services, capital financing and transport. In contrast, financial statistics for the District Council are far lower. Winchester City Council's 'Budget Book' reveals that the City Council has a budget of £12.5m. This highlights the difference between the budget of the County Council and that of the District Council.

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