Community leaders have angrily rejected any attempt to merge their Staffordshire Moorlands town with neighbouring Stoke-on-Trent.
Biddulph Town Council debated the issue as the Government is expected to publish its proposals for local government reorganisation.
It comes as a report by the County Councils Network has suggested £3 billion could be saved over five years if 213 local authorities in England were scrapped and replaced with 25 larger councils.
And research and policy group Centre for Cities has put forward its own proposal to merge the Staffordshire Moorlands and Newcastle borough with Stoke-on-Trent to create a ‘Greater Stoke’ region.
But this has not gone down well in some town halls across North Staffordshire.
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At its November meeting, Biddulph town councillor Andrew Hart asked the council to ‘resist all and every attempt to incorporate Biddulph into Stoke-on-Trent, either at a local government or parliamentary level’. This motion was backed by 12 councillors, with two against and six abstentions.
Mr Hart, who put forward the motion, said: “The vast majority of Biddulph people have a dread of being incorporated into Stoke-on-Trent. You only have to read the last three decades of The Sentinel to see why.
“There is a perception among the population of Biddulph that there is a series of bad decision-making and waste of money. I feel we really ought to have a discussion about this and vote on it so the people of Biddulph know exactly where we stand.”
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Councillor David Hawley seconded the motion. He said: “It is highly likely any moves will include the Staffordshire Moorlands – and therefore Biddulph – in a group with Stoke-on-Trent. It’s bad enough to want us to merge with anyone, but I’m afraid merging with Stoke-on-Trent is the last thing that the majority of people in Biddulph want.
“Given the number of councillors they would have decisions would be run by Stoke-on-Trent. Our council tax would be used to prop up a failing authority, whether it is run by the Conservatives, Labour or independents. I believe we must therefore make our views known and fight any moves to merge with anyone – especially Stoke-on-Trent.”
But other members questioned why the issue was being debated in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Councillor Nigel Yates said: “We’re talking about parts of Staffordshire going into a unitary authority. At this moment in time Stoke-on-Trent is not in Staffordshire – it is a unitary authority in its own right.
“There is a high probability that we would end up with a single Staffordshire unitary authority with Staffordshire Moorlands being abolished. We don’t want to change the status quo but unfortunately that is going to be forced upon us if this white paper gets traction when it eventually comes out and is forced through.
“We’re in the midst of the most serious public health emergency since 1918 and you’re putting forward this hypothetical proposal with no information, guidance or evidence apart from Dominic Cummings’ press briefings and the Conservative Party manifesto pledge to abolish these second-tier councils.
“What is meant by ‘will resist’? Are you advocating breaking the law?