Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke has called for all local authorities to become unitaries.
Speaking at the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives Summit, Mr Clarke said: ‘I think that’s the right way to go.’
In the summit’s opening keynote speech, Mr Clarke described how a once powerful local government had been left ‘beached’ in the 20th century.
But he remained optimistic and suggested the sector could reclaim public leadership.
Mr Clarke said: ‘I think public leadership is needed now more than ever. There is a culture there [between central and local] of distrust and it is absolutely essential to solve.
‘You can’t eliminate political disagreements but chief executives are often able to get consensus about what needs to be done.
‘Local government has had the most distinguished record of all in claiming public leadership and trying to solve issues facing society. I do believe that there is an opportunity for you to rejoin that process now.
‘It’s all very difficult but I really do believe now is the time to give it a go.’
In a wide-ranging address, Mr Clarke also revealed he was against directly elected mayors, thought that devolution would lead to a ‘very confused national pattern’ and viewed Home Secretary Theresa May’s speech to this week’s Conservative Party conference as ‘pretty disgraceful’.