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Leader pours cold water on call to reopen debate over unitary councils in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 16:01 10 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:01 10 June 2019

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Archant

It was a debate which set council against council and the leader of Norfolk County Council says he has no desire to start talking about having a single council for Norfolk once again.

In 2009, the Boundary Committee recommended a single unitary authority covering all of Norfolk - which would have seen district and borough councils disappear. Supporters said it would save money.

The following year, it was announced Norwich would become a unitary authority, although local government secretary Eric Pickles took steps to reverse that decision, so it never happened.

At a meeting of Norfolk County Council's Conservative cabinet, independent councillor Sandra Squire asked if it would be a good time to investigate unitary again.

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But council leader Andrew Proctor said, while he had nothing against unitary, he would rather pursue devolution of powers to local councils pursued.

He said: "In 2010, the Norfolk unitary proposal was stopped by the secretary of state. During this process, little or no consensus was found between the local authorities in Norfolk.

"I personally have nothing against unitary structures, however, I feel that the vast majority of the financial benefits realised by moving to this model can be achieved by working better together - for example, as a single waste authority, one public estate and sharing back office functions.

"All of these can be achieved in the spirit of cooperation without legislation and retaining local democratic accountability. We will also avoid the large set up costs and disruption that would follow a move to single tier.

"The other factor to consider is that devolution has come to the fore since the last unitary bid.

"Although we didn't quite reach an agreed way forward in the last round, I would prefer that this was pursued afresh as opposed to opening up the unitary debate."

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