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Brighton and Hove City Council could be replaced with a ‘Greater Brighton’ authority with a directly-elected leader, under proposals published by a think tank to simplify local government in England.

The report, published last week by Centre for Cities, would reduce the number of local and combined authorities from 349 to just 69 in England, each with its own elected mayor and with borders matching the “local economic geography”.

A future map of local government in England? The proposed 69 local authorities in the Centre for Cities report (MCA stands for Mayoral Combined Authority) Image: Centre for Cities

Each council would have the same powers as Greater London, with the ability to control business rates and council tax, and have greater control over its own budget.

The think tank claims the proposals would allow for “greater institutional capacity and accountability” in local government.

Under the plans, Brighton and Hove would merge with Adur and Lewes to form ‘Greater Brighton’, with a combined population of 458,000. The new council would stretch from Lancing in the west to Seaford in the east and Ditchling in the north.

“A reform of this nature will always be controversial, but the economic challenges places around the country are facing combined with the Government’s commitment to level up opportunity, mean it is a reform whose time has come,” the report states.

Based on current ward boundaries and results at the last local elections for each area, the Conservatives would likely be the largest party of the new council but could be unable to form an administration.

The Green Party and Labour, with 28 and 27 seats respectively, would likely work together to run the council, whether as a confidence or supply or as a coalition.

The Liberal Democrats, with the help of voters from Lewes, would have eight seats on the council, returning to local government in Brighton for the first time since 2011.

The total vote share from those local elections suggests a race between the Greens and Labour for the elected leadership of ‘Greater Brighton’ with 33 percent and 30 percent respectively. Notably, the Conservatives would end up with the most seats on the council despite only gaining 24 percent of the vote.

However, Brighton and Hove voted against the introduction of a directly-elected mayor in a local referendum in 2001, with 62 percent of residents rejecting the proposal.

Centre for Cities’ proposal comes as the Government plans its approach to reforming local government, as proposed in the Conservative 2019 election manifesto.

The Government’s white paper on devolution and local government reform is expected sometime this autumn, with speculation that local authorities may be forced into introducing so-called ‘metro mayors’.