Adopting a new unitary authority system could lead to the election of Hertfordshire's first-ever mayor
Hertfordshire's councils are being reorganized into a unitary authority and this could lead to the appointment of the first elected mayor and a step towards the delegations of authority away from a central government.
The leader of the County Council, David Williams believes that having a single authority instead of the current system of 10 separate district councils that are currently being run in the county offers several “enormous benefits” including the improvement of services. Local estimates suggest that such a move could save the city up to £142m.
Williams also says that not making a move towards this unitary model will prevent the country from fully benefiting from the ongoing devolution of power from a central government.
One of the expected consequences of such a move is the creation of a new role of an elected county mayor. Other counties in the neighborhood like Cambridgeshire and Peterborough already have a similar system in place and there are strong indications from the Hertfordshire government of a similar move. A white paper is expected to be published in September that will detail the process.
But the move isn’t without opposition, the district and borough council leaders are in opposition to the move towards a unitary system. But David Williams believes a change towards a unitary system is inevitable and it offers a lot of benefits.
“I have no doubt in my mind that unitary local government can bring enormous benefits in terms of improving services and better value for money,” Councillor Williams says.
He projects the year 2024 as the likely end of the current two-tier system. The tenure of the current parliamentary government will elapse in 2024. The two-tier system that is currently being run includes 10 district councils and a county council both with different responsibilities. Unifying the system will see services like housing, licensing, environmental health, planning, social care, education, and the fire services under the control of a single council.
For a countyas large as Hertfordshire up to two or three unitary councils could be formed, although Williams thinks having one unitary council will have several strategic and financial benefits.
Cllr Williams does not agree with popular concerns about the feasibility of a single council. He points to the possibility of establishing area boards and the designation of some responsibilities to existing town councils. Williams beliefs that clinging to the existing system will hold Hertfordshire back from accessing greater powers and a major part of the future could be the election of a mayor for the county.
Counties with elected mayors typically get additional powers in the areas of infrastructure delivery, transport, and planning and Williams says he does not want Hertfordshire to “lose out” on any of these as well.
Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge and his PITP team have announced the cancellation of the annual food and music fest which was earlier scheduled to hold this September, citing the Coronavirus pandemic and the need to follow social distancing guidelines as reasons.
The annual Pub in the Park event was due to be held as a three-day event during which Tom Kerridge and his chef friends would treat guests to a wide range of meals. Tom posted an update on the event on the Festival’s website and announced that the Pub in the Park event will now hold in 2021.
According to the update, Tom wrote: “We’ve spent the last few months working with our musicians, chefs, pubs, and towns to ensure the vast majority of the line-ups will remain the same.”
The organizers of the event promised an update if there are any subsequent changes in the plans. However, the new date for the St. Albans foodie event has now been fixed for the 10th to 12th of September, 2021, a year after the earlier scheduled date.
Meanwhile, Tom and the organizers of the event have been hosting drive-in evening cinema dates. The last of such drive-in cinema dates is scheduled to be held on Sunday the 19th of July with the screening of the movie 1917 at the Luton Hoo Estate.
The creators of the food festival are now focusing their attention on a new event scheduled to hold in September. This time, it will be a drive-in concert and guests will be treated to special delicacies from Tom Kerridge and friends. The drive-in garden party will hold later in September at Knebworth House.
The drive-in event may seem like a sort of concession for the canceled Pub in the Park Program since it is due to hold on the same weekend that PITP was earlier scheduled happen in St. Albans. However, the concert event will hold in a format much similar to the just concluded drive-in cinema dates.
Keeping with the times, the garden event will see guests drive in and park up in their own private enclosure and party in their car with friends and family. They get to enjoy great food and music while keeping a safe social distance. Music arts set to pop up the event include Kaiser Chief and Basement Jaxx. There will be a DJ set as well for the night of entertainment and tasty meals. Other headlining acts at the event include Craig Charles, Soul II Soul, Toploader, Scouting for Girls, Gabrielle and Judge Jules.
While this is a more abridged version of the Pub in the Park festival, TV chef Kerridge said these are complicated times but they look forward to having the full version of the event in 2021.
The drive-in concert will take place in five sessions starting on Friday, 11th of September to Sunday the 13th of September. Tickets for the event will be available for sale to the general public from the 17th of July.