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Councils told website must be changed

PUBLISHED: 09:25 19 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:48 03 July 2010

FIVE district councils behind a website protesting against a combined Norfolk authority have been ordered by a watchdog to change the site's wording.

Last month officials from the Audit Commission launched an investigation into the Keep Norfolk Local site set up by Breckland, Broadland, North Norfolk, South Norfolk and King's Lynn and West Norfolk councils.

FIVE district councils behind a website protesting against a combined Norfolk authority have been ordered by a watchdog to change the site's wording.

Last month officials from the Audit Commission launched an investigation into the Keep Norfolk Local site set up by Breckland, Broadland, North Norfolk, South Norfolk and King's Lynn and West Norfolk councils.

The probe came after complaints that the site was in breach of the code of conduct on council-run campaigns which states that publicity should be “objective, balanced, informative and accurate”.

And the district auditor has now sent a report to South Norfolk Council, the lead council, pinpointing wording that needs to be changed on the site.

The campaign, which was launched with the help of London based PR firm Freshwater and could cost up to £75,000 is aimed at halting a controversial review by the Boundary Committee looking into unitary government.

But the district auditor has cited five points on the site that have to be amended or taken out.

South Norfolk is in the process of writing back to the district auditor suggesting possible changes and these have already been incorporated on the website.

Sandra Dinneen, chief executive of South Norfolk Council said: “Within hours, the five councils in Keep Norfolk Local had agreed to clarify some of the wording on the site and those changes were made immediately.

“A reply will be with the auditors shortly, setting out those changes and seeking clarification that we have now addressed the Commission's concerns about the balance of the content on the site.”

A line claiming the unitary scheme “would be unworkable” has been taken out.

Another of the points cited by the district auditor was that “The (unitary) proposals have not been subject to any consultation with the public”.

The councils have changed this to: “The proposals have not been subject to comprehensive public consultation.”

The line “there will be server service disruption and local services will be reduced. For example, West Norfolk will lose its weekly bin service” has been changed to “experience elsewhere in the country suggest there could be severe service disruption and local services could be reduced. For example, West Norfolk could lose its weekly bin service”.

And “the proposals for re-organisation would cost a minimum of £20m and possibly as much as £60m based on experience elsewhere” has been amended to “Norfolk County Council assert that reorganisation will cost a minimum of £20m (as stated by Norfolk County Council in their submission to the Boundary Committee). However, as seen in Northumberland where estimated costs have tripled, this could be as much as £60m”.

Lastly “the unitary proposals will involve the loss of over 500 local jobs” has been changed to “the unitary proposals could involve the loss of over 500 local jobs as stated by Norfolk County Council in their submission to the Boundary Committee”.

All the amendments are now waiting approval from the district auditor.


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