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Vital unitary vote tonight

PUBLISHED: 10:24 22 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:09 30 June 2010

The fate of Norfolk and Norwich - and whether the government will succeed in tearing the city out from the rest of the county - will turn on a vote in the House of Lords tonight.

The fate of Norfolk and Norwich - and whether the government will succeed in tearing the city out from the rest of the county - will turn on a vote in the House of Lords tonight.

Peers have a chance to throw out controversial plans to create unitary councils in Norwich and Exeter but all signs are that ministers will get their way after the Conservatives caved in and said they would not back a Lib Dem “fatal” motion to kill the proposal.

Instead the Tories are planning to support a rival “motion of regret” which calls for more time to be allowed to consult on the plans - but which means little and can be easily ignored.

It means the orders to create a new city council could be in place by the end of the week - to the joy of city council chiefs who have long campaigned for the chance to let Norwich have control over its own affairs, and to the dismay of Norfolk County Council which fears for the future of vital services.

Today's votes in the Commons, which the government will easily win, and Lords, where there is a chance of defeat, come despite fresh warnings from an influential committee of MPs and peers that the unitary measure is unlawful and “fails to accord with proper legislative practice”.

The failure of the Conservatives to block the move in the Upper House will prompt claims that despite the tough talk of the national leadership, Tory-run Norfolk - and Devon - county councils have been hung out to dry by the party.

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