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Unitary plans cost councils £2.6m

PUBLISHED: 10:35 04 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:38 30 June 2010

Government plans to shake up councils in Norfolk have cost residents more than £2.6m including six-figure bills for consultants fees, public relations and legal costs.

Government plans to shake up councils in Norfolk have cost residents more than £2.6m including six-figure bills for consultants fees, public relations and legal costs.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that between them councils have spent £2,646,478.20 on the local government review since the government first launched the process four years ago.

The cash was a mixture of spending on building up cases in response to requests for information from the Boundary Committee on possible unitary plans, and later lobbying and legal fees when the process turned sour.

The government has since approved the creation of a new unitary council for Norwich while keeping the current system of county and district councils in the rest of Norfolk.

But all local authorities had been forced to take part in the process after ministers called on the Boundary Committee to review the whole set up in Norfolk after previously failing the original Norwich bid on affordability grounds.

And the final bill could yet be higher once the costs of the latest legal challenge in the High Court are taken into account.

Mr Lamb, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate in North Norfolk, who obtained the figures, condemned the spending as “obscene” particularly at a time when councils are cutting services.

“The whole thing is an outrage when public services are under such pressure,” Mr Lamb said. “Most Norfolk people will really struggle with the idea that more than £2m has been spent on a completely flawed process with different sides arguing their respective cases including very expensive London consultants.”

Overall, the biggest spender was Norwich City Council which spent £1.3m including £747,624 on “supplies and services” including external consultants such as Deloittes who were brought in to work on and verify the detailed business case figures submitted to government.

Norfolk County Council spent £805,000 on the unitary process including £218,000 on consultancy from PricewaterhouseCoopers, and £111,000 on lobbyists Weber Shandwick.

What the councils spent

Breckland - £76,575.07

Broadland - £98,484.15

King's Lynn and West Norfolk - £194,464

Norfolk County Council - £805,000

North Norfolk - £41,989

Norwich City Council - £1,344,086

South Norfolk - £85,880


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