BASILDON Council is set to take the first steps towards divorcing Essex County Council. 

Members of authority's policy and resources committee will discuss the issue and what options are available at a meeting next Thursday.

Councillors will be asked to “authorise an exploration of options for broadening the scope of the council’s powers”.

It could mean the council ultimately taking over powers currently in the hands of Essex County Council, such as highways, social services, public health and libraries.

Basildon Council Leader Gavin Callaghan insisted Basildon is “economically a city” without having the powers to act as one.

He said: “Basildon borough is the biggest economy in Essex and the fastest growing outside London. Economically we are a city, but we don’t have the powers of a city to control our own resources and make the most of the opportunities to improve the life chances of all our residents.

"If we are to truly wake this sleeping giant then we must have full control of our powers.

“I want to bring decision-making on the full-range of council services closer to the people that are affected by those decisions, so our services are firmly focused on the needs of Pitsea, Wickford, Billericay, Basildon and Laindon; not Chelmsford, Colchester or Brentwood.

“The truth is that if we are being asked as a council to review our housing provision, our economic development and the vision for what kind of borough this will be between now and 2050, then it is right that we also look at whether the governance of our borough is fit for purpose too.

"We are serious about making the big changes that are needed to match our big ambitions for Basildon.”

If approved, the findings of this work would then be reported back to the Policy and Resources committee in January 2020.

If the council does apply for unitary status, it would be subject to a public consultation as well as needing support from the secretary of state for housing and the approval of parliament.