'Yartoft' to face choice of counties

Yarmouth and Lowestoft residents face a 'which county' tussle if controversial plans to create a new Yartoft council went ahead, it was claimed last night.

Yarmouth and Lowestoft residents face a 'which county' tussle if controversial plans to create a new Yartoft council went ahead, it was claimed last night.

The Boundary Committee is currently canvassing views about a tie-up between the towns and creating a new 'unitary' authority by combining services currently provided by Waveney and Yarmouth district councils and the county council as part of a far reaching review of town halls in Norfolk and Suffolk.

But Norfolk County Hall has come me out against plans and has warned that any new Yartoft council would have to be either wholly in Norfolk or Suffolk for civic purposes.

But the claim is unlikely to cut much ice with supporters of the Yartoft idea - which includes both the town's MPs, who believe that the creation of a joint health care system and an urban regeneration company shows the two can combine successfully.

A report by county council chief executive, David White, said the idea was found wanting in a number of areas including value for money, lack of stakeholder support and 'uniquely high' transition costs.

And he said it would be open to question where the 'civic heart' of a Yartoft council would be because it would see an authority created in Norfolk which contains all or part of Waveney, or an authority created in Suffolk which contains all or part of Yarmouth while for ceremonial purposes any new cross border authority would need to be part of either Norfolk or Suffolk.

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None of the four authorities that would in part or whole make up the new authority are likely to support the change while seven out of the eight councils in the Norfolk Local Government Association disagree with the concept.

“While Yarmouth and Lowestoft have much in common, there are also clear separate interests and identities between the towns, for example, opposition from port interests in Lowestoft to the new outer harbour at Yarmouth,” he said. “It would be a very real challenge for the strategic leadership of the authority to rise above that and to make difficult decisions that affect one or other town.

“The requirement for any new unitary authority to sit within the county of Suffolk or the county of Norfolk for civic purposes could seriously undermine strategic leadership. County allegiances are very strong and would militate against effective leadership. The creation and subsequent dissolution of counties such as Humberside and Avon demonstrate that the impact of historic allegiance to county can be considerable.

County councillors are to debate the issue at a special full council meeting next week ahead of cabinet meeting to set out the authority's position on the issue.

Council leader Daniel Cox, said: “The fact that creating a cross-boundary unitary will involve Norfolk residents in Yarmouth becoming residents of Suffolk, or vice versa, has not been widely appreciated until now, but it's high time that the issue is fully aired and debated.

“The issue of how strongly local people identify with Norfolk should not be taken lightly - and I suspect people living in Suffolk will have a similar point of view about their affinity with their own county.