Health chiefs back unitary council plan

Laura Bagshaw GREAT Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Care Trust (PCT) has put its weight behind proposals for a single unitary council covering the Yarmouth and Lowestoft area.

Laura Bagshaw

GREAT Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Care Trust (PCT) has put its weight behind proposals for a single unitary council covering the Yarmouth and Lowestoft area.

Following a board meeting the PCT is now in the process of submitting a formal proposal to the Boundary Committee, which is currently looking at ways to shake-up the local political landscape in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The current two-tier system of county and district council would be scrapped under the proposals in favour of unitary authorities.

While plans to create a single council linking Yarmouth and Lowestoft are bitterly opposed by ruling Conservative parties in both areas, Labour groups are in support, believing a unitary authority could bring a string of benefits to the area.

And Labour's campaign for a so-called 'Yartoft' council received a major boost this week after the PCT said a single council could only enhance its performance.

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PCT chief executive Mike Stonard, said: “We see ourselves as the people's PCT, which is something we are very proud of. What worries me is if we don't get a single local unitary council history will repeat itself and the focus on local needs and services, and all the benefits this brings, will be lost.”

The PCT argues the present system could be made much simpler in order to offer the best possible health and social services and facilities for the people of Yarmouth and Waveney.

Mr Stonard said: “To make improvements in local people's health we need to work closely with our council partners who run social care, education and housing services. The challenge we currently face is having to work with four separate and completely different councils.

“So, when we need to co-ordinate health and social care services - for example getting people home from hospital on time - it can get really complicated because of the four council boundaries and four different sets of policies and services. A lot of complicated co-ordination has to go on to ensure patients get what they need when they need it.

“A single council and a single PCT working one-on-one would streamline service planning and delivery, reducing this unnecessary bureaucracy at a stroke, which most importantly will help us improve patient care.”

Mr Stonard added that when the NHS was run by big county authorities up to 14pc of the money trickled away to places like Norwich and Ipswich.

“In health terms, Yarmouth and Waveney have far more in common with each other than with their respective counties and the PCT is showing what can be achieved when people from both areas work together to benefit the whole population.

“We hope the many thousands of people who supported the creation of the PCT will support a unitary council because the arguments in favour are almost exactly the same and the PCT is proving them right,” he added.

Deputy leader of the borough council Barry Stone said he believed a single authority would not “make the slightest” bit of difference.

He said the PCT is working “very well” in both areas and that change in local government should not affect the way health services are delivered in the area.

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