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Unitary authority plan for Gravesham & Dartford unveiled at meeting of Dartford council last night

Gravesham and Dartford council won't be joining forces to become the second unitary authority in Kent - this was an April Fools.

Below is what ran from 00.01 this morning up until noon today.

An item at Dartford council’s Cabinet Advisory Panel this morning recommended going ahead with the merger.

Both Gravesham council leader John Burden and Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite spoke at the meeting saying it was a “momentous moment in the history of local government moments”.

Council leaders Jeremy Kite and John Burden on the Swanscombe Peninsula

Cllr Kite, who will present the plans to cabinet colleagues just before noon, said: “Gravesham and Dartford are essentially the same and the blurred line between Swanscombe, on our patch, and Northfleet, on Gravesham's patch, is fast diminishing.

"Indeed, only Swanscombe has a 'welcome' sign and people are unaware they have entered Northfleet and subsequently Gravesham. This will address that issue. There will be a new sign.

“With the soon to be built Paramount park, our close working relationship will continue to grow and grow and it makes sense to pool our resources, our talent, and become Kent’s second unitary authority, following Medway’s lead.”

Nodding throughout the speech, Cllr Burden then spoke, saying: “It is entirely right that our two councils join forces. Our combined might will allow us to examine the issues, the challenges, facing our community and together we can overcome those challenges, those issues.”

“What makes sense to them, and the long term viability of our area, can quite often be far removed from the reality of local government in Gravesham and Dartford".

A consultation on the draft Gravesham & Dartford: A New Unitary Authority for Kent, starts today, which coincidentally is the 40th birthday of local government.

Previously, Gravesend and Northfleet were run by the Municipal Borough of Gravesend and Northfleet Urban District.

Dartford meanwhile was formed by the merger of the Municipal Borough of Dartford, Swanscombe Urban District, and part of Dartford Rural District.

A remembrance service for both municipal boroughs will be held in the council chambers up until noon today.

If the unitary plan is agreed, services including public rights of way, the running of schools, freedom passes, social services, libraries, pot holes, yellow lines and street lighting will come under the control of Gravesham and Dartford’s unitary authority.

With unprecedented pressure on local authorities' budgets, the split from KCC will allow further funding to come direct to the two boroughs.

Strategic operations director for the merger, Gary Pilkins MBE, said: "The intention of this public consultation is to start an open and inclusive debate between the two communities, even those in Northfleet.

"This plan will allow us, the people in charge, to have, at its core, the interests of our citizens - something not currently offered by KCC who are in Maidstone, approximately 17 miles away and at a substantial cost on the train.

“What makes sense to KCC, and the long term viability of our area, can quite often be far removed from the reality of local government in Gravesham and Dartford."

There has however been strong opposition to the plans voiced by senior figures at County Hall who are “strongly opposed” to the proposition.

KCC leader Paul Carter said: “I do not think I would be open to persuasion when it comes to our partners in Gravesham and Dartford leaving Kent County Council.

“We intend to be proactive and forward-thinking as an authority and the change to a unitary authority is very much a backward step.”

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