Unitary verdict

EXPLOSIVE proposals to overhaul town halls would see a new Norfolk super council take in Lowestoft and be in pole position to deliver better and cheaper services for 900,000 people.

EXPLOSIVE proposals to overhaul town halls would see a new Norfolk super council take in Lowestoft and be in pole position to deliver better and cheaper services for 900,000 people.

That was the shock verdict of the Boundary Committee of England which yesterday set out its preferred option to replace councils with a new one-size-fits-all unitary set up.

The move torpedoes Norwich's home rule dream, dismisses the prospects of a separate Yarmouth-Lowestoft 'Yartoft' option and extinguishes hopes that King's Lynn would lead a new council for the West.

And the plans sparked almost universal uproar among MPs and district councils who said the findings represented the worst of all worlds.

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Both main political parties in Yarmouth expressed surprise and disappointment.

Council leader Barry Coleman, whose Tory party favoured a link-up with North Norfolk council to create a new coastal authority, said: “While there are likely to be economies of scale, it is hard to see how the proposal for one big council could work locally to shape services to meet specific needs.

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“While the alternatives put forward by the Committee are not ones Yarmouth council previously considered it will be giving them serious consideration to see how they might serve the interests of local people.”

Mick Castle, leader of Yarmouth's Labour group, expressed disappointment the bid for a Yarmouth/Waveney unitary - the so-called Yartoft option - did not ultimately feature. He said he was “open-minded” to the alternative based on a Greater Norwich linked to Yarmouth and Lowestoft - “A Norwich/Yarmouth Wedge”.

Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich city council, said the authority would still fight for home rule for the city.

“There's no doubt that the historic importance of the city would be threatened by this greater Norfolk proposal,” he said.

“We remain convinced that only a new unitary council focused on greater Norwich can truly address its urban needs and deliver its huge economic and growth potential.”

Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council, said the Lowestoft option had taken them by surprise but he was glad the committee had recognised the merits of a super council.

“We clearly set out the case that a single county unitary would deliver the most efficient services, be simple to understand, and keeps Norfolk together and enables us to have a strong voice locally and nationally,” he said. “The Boundary Committee heard the evidence and felt the proposal made sense.”

Ray Harding, chief executive of West Norfolk, Council, said: “West Norfolk has been overlooked and we can't believe that the significance of King's Lynn and the west of the county appears to have been ignored.”

Mark Bee, leader of Waveney District Council, said: “This is a total dog's dinner and not something that fits into any of the consultations that took place. I said six months ago that the annexing of Lowestoft to Norfolk was a very real possibility and we simply will not stand for it.”

In the rest of Suffolk there should be two new councils - Ipswich and Felixstowe, and a rest of Suffolk minus Lowestoft.

The committee is also seeking views on two alternatives including a doughnut model of a greater Norwich council plus a rest of Norfolk including Lowestoft, a 'wedge' model of Norwich, Yarmouth and Lowestoft. In Suffolk it says there is also merit in exploring a single council option as well.

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