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'Why one council is right for Norwich'

PUBLISHED: 11:01 12 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:06 02 July 2010

Steve Morphew

Steve Morphew

A bright new dawn has been predicted for Norwich after the government gave the green light for a unitary council to be created in the city within two years.

A bright new dawn has been predicted for Norwich after the government gave the green light for a unitary council to be created in the city within two years.

Local Government Minister Rosie Winterton laid draft orders this week to create a new Norwich unitary council in 2011, to the delight of leaders of the current city council.

The new council will deliver all services in the city, including transport, education and social services, which are currently the remit of Norfolk Council Council.

Here city council council leader Steve Morphew explains the ways he thinks the city will benefit from the switch.

This is a new council and one which will be more transparent. I am quite convinced very few people understand who they pay their council tax to and what they get for it.

That's not their fault. It's the fault of a system which is not transparent and accountable. With one council set to deliver the lot, people will know who they have elected to do that.

The two tier system leads to confusion and a lack of accountability and makes it much more difficult to deliver what people want and expect.

From the point of view of the leader of the council it has been extremely frustrating that there are so many things we know we could deliver and things people have told us they want, but we have always hit bureaucratic obstacles.

The kind of things a unitary council could look at would include education. We would put a strong focus on the needs of local children, families and organisations.

Our proposals focus on 'Campus Norwich' under which all schools within the city boundary would be able to work together to share training and development, best practice, supporting vulnerable youngsters and tackling failing performance.

We have spent forever talking about education levels in the city and how that should be the responsibility of the city, not of rural county councillors.

The new council could reverse the historic under-investment in city schools and put the resources where they are needed most.

We know there would be several million pounds extra coming in as a result of a unitary council for Norwich and that money would help those schools.

With social services, if you take something like the day centre closures, the unitary council would not steam in like the county did and say 'we are going to close them'.

We would be going in and talking to the users and asking what sort of provision do they want? Let's talk about their needs, how do we meet them and how do we fund that?

On transport we would see a shift towards much more integrated transport planning, so as a transport authority we would work much more closely with bus companies and get more integration between times of buses, trains and other public transport and design city transport systems so they link in with each other.

There would be a focus on cycling and pedestrian links, while Westlegate would be shut because that's what businesses want, while public transport around Norwich would be reconfigured.

On libraries we will have to talk to the county about how that would work and we might need a partnership on that, but we would want to see more computer terminals and libraries used more to access council services.

On the economy, we could have a much more joined up approach. At the moment someone looking to invest in Norwich goes to economic development at the city and at the county. But if we could have just one door for people to walk through, it would make it much easier to “sell” Norwich to them and bring in more investment.

Norwich is an urban engine of prosperity and needs the gears and drivers to achieve its full potential. A unitary Norwich on its existing boundary would benefit both the city and county and could deliver more efficiently and effectively, and with a lot less waste, than the current two-tier set-up.

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