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County unitary carve up proposal

PUBLISHED: 15:45 17 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:52 03 July 2010

“ONE County: Three Communities”, that's how Great Yarmouth Borough Council sees the future political landscape in Norfolk.

As the time draws near for a decision on how to carve up the county into new unitary authorities, the Tory-controlled council unveiled its preferences in a joint proposal with Breckland District and North Norfolk District Council as part of the controversial review of local government in Norfolk and Suffolk.

“ONE County: Three Communities”, that's how Great Yarmouth Borough Council sees the future political landscape in Norfolk.

As the time draws near for a decision on how to carve up the county into new unitary authorities, the Tory-controlled council unveiled its preferences in a joint proposal with Breckland District and North Norfolk District Council as part of the controversial review of local government in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Five suggestions have now been put forward by councils in Norfolk, with options ranging from having one massive council to having four smaller versions.

While the Yarmouth, Breckland and North Norfolk councils favour keeping the status quo, they believe a model of three unitary councils, with Yarmouth as part of a Norfolk Coastal council, was the best way forward.

If implemented it would see the end of the current two tier-system of county and district councils.

Under these latest proposals, Norfolk would be made up of three councils:

Rural Norfolk - including Thetford, kings Lynn, Diss and Wymondham

Greater Norwich

Norfolk Coastal - including Yarmouth, North Walsham, Cromer, Hunstanton and Acle.

In the proposals for Norfolk Coastal, which would have a population of 278,000, the report points to similarities between Yarmouth, Cromer and the Norfolk Broads in terms of tourism adding the area has a “thriving tourism economy” which a single authority could build on.

It also outlines problems shared by communities on the Norfolk coast including poor accessibility as well as an ageing population which they say a single unitary authority could focus on.

But as the proposals were released on Monday, Labour Party groups in both Norfolk and Suffolk submitted their bid for a Yarmouth and Lowestoft unitary authority.

In the proposal, Labour says it believes “residents in Yarmouth and Waveney feel they have a great deal in common” and a single unitary authority for the area could build on current links such as the Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Care Trust and urban regeneration company, 1st East.

While the Labour groups realise a “Yartoft” would straddle borders, the report says any “solution” not bringing the towns together is “flawed, failing to recognise the practicalities that unite our communities.”

It continues that outside agencies have recognised the need to cross the county border to best serve the public citing the Thomson Local Directory as an example.

The James Paget University Hospital has come out in support of Yartoft, believing the unitary structure would bring many benefits of aligning health to local authority planning.

However, Norfolk Constabulary has said if Yartoft was implemented it would again raise the question of force mergers in the East of England because the new authority could not “straddle” constabulary boundaries.

In a letter to the Boundary Committee, Chief Constable Ian McPherson said it would be a major loss for either Norfolk or Suffolk constabularies to lose a major town in their policing areas, therefore raising the argument of a force merger, although plans to create an East Anglian superforce collapsed last year.

Norfolk County Council opposes a Yartoft merger saying while the towns have a lot in common, they also have separate interests and cites as an example the opposition from port interests in Lowestoft to the building of the outer harbour in Yarmouth.

The county council also suggests that while a single office base would be cost effective, they question whether the authority could consolidate in either town.

The Boundary Committee will now consider the options submitted by councils and the Labour groups and will instruct local authorities of its favoured options shortly. Options chosen will then have a sound business case evaluation and go out to public consultation in July.

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