Special investigation: Norfolk County Council, get your act together

Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs. Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs.

Saturday, December 21, 2013
10:03 AM

The EDP posed the question at the start of this week as to whether Norfolk County Council is fit for purpose.

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That question formed the jumping off point for a series of special reports focusing on some of the most controversial issues the council is involved with.

Now, we were never conceited enough to think that, five days later, we would be in a position to completely answer the question of whether the council is indeed, fit for purpose.

But what we do know is that the success of the county council and, by extension, of this wonderful county of ours, is dependent upon the authority.

The county council has an annual budget of £1,5bn, employs thousands of people and is responsible for services which are absolutely vital.

From the care our vulnerable people receive to how well our children do at school - the county council has a crucial role to play.

Major projects which would have a massive impact on people’s lives, such as the incinerator proposed for King’s Lynn and the Norwich Northern Distributor Road - those are county council issues.

And, despite the recently-formed Local Enterprise Partnership. the economic prosperity of the region still hinges to a considerable degree on decisions which are made at County Hall.

The bitter arguments that Norfolk would be better served by at least one unitary authority have taken place and been consigned, for now, to history.

But that’s not a reason for the county council (and the districts) for that matter, not to be looking at ways to do things better.

Ultimately, the success or not of Norfolk County Council will come down to two sets of people. The councillors and the council officers.

With no party in overall political control at County Hall, that’s really a time when you need strong leadership - at a political and a managerial level.

So it is regrettable that there is a state of flux at the top echalons of the authority, with so many interim bosses. Yet, that could also be an opportunity for the culture of the council to be changed for the better.

However, council officers aside, the people who should be making the decisions are the councillors.

And the EDP today issues a challenge to all 84 of them - get your act together.

We have no doubt that the vast majority of councillors are passionate, principled and hard-working, that they got involved not simply because of the allowances which are available, but to represent their constituents and Norfolk as a whole to the best of their ability. We know they work hard.

Yet there remains a perception that Norfolk has been making mistakes. The words ‘democratic deficit’ have been levelled at the previous administration and at the current one.

The only people who can change that perception are the councillors. With the government continuing to squeeze local councils for cash, next year will be a tough one.

Cuts are inevitable, but it is essential that the councillors listen to the views of the public on those proposals.

And, it is equally important that councillors behave in a mature way when it comes to setting the council’s budget. This is not a time for political point-scoring. That has disillusioned the Norfolk public for long enough.

32 comments

  • The EDP is no more interested in informing public debate than BBC Norfolk and most of the rest of the media. But it is happy to moan and sling mud: viz the coverage of Bett's mileage claims, which are no secret having been on the PCC's website for the past year. What we need more than anything else, when it comes to local government, is new people standing for election either as independents or as party members. I've heard that the Conservatives are looking for new people, what about the others?

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    Jack1956

    Sunday, December 22, 2013

  • It is a shame that these questions were not being raised and asked of the previous Tory administration, by the EDP. To do so now seems to reveal the innate political bias of the Archant group in favour of "anything Tory". The failure to make any robust comment on the previous, and very poor, County administration, together with such things as the ludicrously sycophantic coverage given to the the Norwich Tory MP, have to an extent invalidated any comment that the EDP may now choose to make. In publishing there are times to sit on the fence, or get off it, but I don't think pursuing party political allegiances are part of that.

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    T Doff

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

  • Said a long time ago George........be careful what you wish for. At least you now know what it takes. All over soon. You can return to shouting from the back again when you pass the chair.

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    Dickens

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

  • All true Nemesis. The EDP agrees that NCC has lost its purpose, untill the next Tory administration is in power, off course. We could have done with an investigation in 2006 or 2007, at the height of misinformation, when councillors were excluded from decisions made by the cabinet, not even allowed to debate issues, now its too late. But Archant changing its political bias would mean that hell freezes over, Nemesis.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • I notice GNobbs hasn't changed his shirt since last Saturday!

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    maryjane

    Thursday, December 26, 2013

  • Dic.kens your post yesterday shows just how out of touch you really are with what has been going on behind the scenes old pal, not to mention what's going on now. But hey, you carry on reading a few comments, the campaign's website, emails going to members and then entertaining us by summing it up in your amusing way, we all love a good laugh. Good wishes for Christmas to you and all your friends too.

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    Honest John

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • There does seem to be an unhealthy pre-occupation with individual District Councils in the east joining forces and this hardly benefits Norfolk as a County. We’ve already seen NHS Norfolk and Waveney combine together and now the desire for Norfolk CC to work closely with Suffolk CC, two massive counties in their own right, when NCC cannot competently manage the whole of their own. West Norfolk has always been neglected, a bit rich considering they contribute the most to NCC’s pot by way of Council Tax revenue, so perhaps the time is ripening for West Norfolk to break away from Norwich?

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    Honest John

    Thursday, December 26, 2013

  • Personally I am surprised that the EDP has come off the fence. The last council was a shambles, we all know that. However, at least for the moment, they are dead and gone, and it is pointless looking back. The focus is now on the current incumbents, some of whom seem determined to do just as badly. They have to start listening to the public and to stop spreading mistruths (effectively lies). When will someone rise above the rest, be honest and bother? I have to ask what are the reasons for these councillors being in post?

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    democrat

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

  • Maryjane is right Nemesis. The County Council has been shafting the public of Norfolk for years. It is only now that the bright spotlight has been turned upon them that we are finding out .what has been happening all that time. Well done John Martin I say! And others who, in their own special interests, have not allowed to Council to ride roughshod over us. Long may it last. Not going to be fun being an employee or a councillor from now on you lot in County Hall, so start behaving. We're watching you and will watch you from now on so long as you exist.

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    alecto

    Sunday, December 22, 2013

  • GNobbs is still wearing the same shirt, must be heaving by now its been at least a week-did no one think to buy him a new one for Christmas with buttons on?

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    maryjane

    Saturday, December 28, 2013

  • Yes, Dickens. So unsuccessful that the Tories took a major nosedive and will continue to do so. Bye bye you lot. And Gnobbs, that pretend Labourite will be chucked into the long grass when the committee system begins. Win, win, win situations. I am well pleased. You however need to stop chewing morning glory seeds and having hallucinations, it's doing your brain in.

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    alecto

    Sunday, December 22, 2013

  • At last, with this series and today's story about Betts Archant have finally woken up to the fact that they have been on the wrong side of the issues for far too long. In doing so they disgracefully ill served their readers and the County's wider population. In continuing to nurture a more professional standard of journalism it is to be hoped they will no longer publish unchallenged the offerings of County Hall's Ministry of Truth and the amateurish PR drivel of Smith and Truss.

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    guella

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

  • George Nobbs wrote an article in the Lynn News about the “now infamous incinerator” and criticised officers and cabinet when he was helping Alex Kemp with her campaign to be elected as Labour candidate for Clenchwarton. The day of the stage managed planning decision he said he and others had not been given time to read the planning application and others did not understand wording.

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    Interpol

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

  • Excellent report summing up from Dan. Perhaps we could make a start by telling GNobbs to tidy himself up and start at least looking like a leader instead of some old faded 'B' movie' has been' - I could elaborate but I leave any further remarks to readers imaginations!!

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    maryjane

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

  • Bah humbug.

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    democrat

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • Says the person wiping the volley of custard pies from their face.

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    Honest John

    Friday, December 27, 2013

  • I do wonder if West Norfolk would be better served by a unitary authority as the decision makers in county hall are clearly incapable of protecting the rights of those outside of Central and East Norfolk. Perhaps Norfolk is too big and too diverse to be centrally governed? Just a thought...

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    LynnLegend

    Tuesday, December 24, 2013

  • Own goal scorer Fens.cr.ap heads another one into the corner of the net as usual. UKIP are a misinformed group of idealists led by a manipulative rabble rouser who rides the Brussels gravy train. Only the abstract fringe of main stream politics become involved out of desperation borne from their own past political failures. Those Mayors and Deputy’s you refer to are another waste of public money that should be consigned to the dustbin with immediate effect. As for Coke I prefer the drink rather than unpleasant odour associated with that name at County Hall. As you will discover all is not quite as it may seem. I knew it was above any of your many aliases to reciprocate in a polite way but Merry Christmas anyway to the clown prince of the anti campaign.

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    Dickens

    Tuesday, December 24, 2013

  • Councillors are to weak and officers just do as they please, this has been the case for sometime. The whole system has been made over complicated by officers to protect there positions and that needs to stop. I am sorry but the County Council is not fit for purpose and something has to be done,

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    Sweet cheeks

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

  • Not long now, D.ick.ens - then this will all be settled one way or another and you can go back to trolling Nick Daubney and Brian Long instead. (Regardless of who you happen to be logged in as.) Hope you're enjoying the usual reruns of the Carry On films - I must admit I thought of you when I saw Sid James playing the role of Cllr Fiddler yesterday.

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    User Removed

    Thursday, December 26, 2013

  • Own goal scorer Fens.cr.ap continues to run up the score for the wrong side as the clown prince of the anti campaign manages to lose sight of the objective in a multi user name onslaught going nowhere. The art of propaganda is to strike at the heart of the targets and destroy solidarity and morale. Watch and learn.

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    Dickens

    Friday, December 27, 2013

  • Yes D.ick.ens - give our regards to the darker side of UKIP where all the disenfranchised old ex-Tory councillors now lurk in the hope of picking up the odd vote or two in the next local election. Let's hope that the likes of Toby Coke makes sure you don't get the sort of free reign you once enjoyed as you all battled over who was going to be deputy mayor of Lynn, year in, year out....

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    User Removed

    Tuesday, December 24, 2013

  • I would like to take this opportunity of offering good wishes to all for Christmas.

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    Dickens

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • Ho ho ho, dear Dickens, still personalising your attacks, rather than bemoaning the 680million this badly placed, ancient and polluting monstrosity will cost us, and more in fines for when it can't work 247. You are like one of many nuts under a christmas tree, anonymous you seek the safety in numbers, but you will be cracked, eventually. festive cheers to all and plenty of yulelog to you Dickens. Now back to the American studies.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, December 25, 2013

  • If the EDP is going to survive as a regional newspaper, then it is going to have to adopt a more investigative stance and follows up leads when it comes across them - from whatever source. It must also drop all political bias and loosen its links to County Hall and the resident spin doctor. That said, this series was at least a start, and those who have read it surely can be under no illusions about the present administration. It is no more impressive than the previous one. The past few years have seen the low water mark for local democracy in Norfolk.

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    Nemesis

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

  • We all know that the majority of Conservatives councillors voted for the waste incinerator revised project plan. These Tories are more interested in being a Tory than representing the Norfolk people. I will never vote Conservative and I would never vote Labour solely because Norfolk's Labour Leader George Nobbs , his ranting and moaning on Radio Norfolk that to refuse the revised project plan would bankrupt Norfolk was a disgrace. George is happy for Norfolk to be bankrupt for 25 years to pay the £650 million Tories deal to Wheelabrator.. Talk about turncoat. I would like to thank all the councillors from all parties who are fighting this nonsense. 65,516 people said No. Eric Pickles has to say No. The children of Lynn will not be experimental guinea pigs for the Tories.

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    Jack

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

  • It is the structural organisation of local government in Norfolk which is unfit for purpose and has been so since the county council was created in 1974.It is and has always been unrepresentative of public opinion as it was designed to be a Tory Single-Party for all time,the root of the problem.A changed electoral system of local government,possibly to STV,would help too.The fact is that the county council is remote and does not represent, not only the range of political opinion, but also what people identify with,which is the City,towns and parishes.The experiment of a one-party state,with an authoritarian leadership style,was never an attractive option.Local government needs major change.

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    Peter Watson

    Sunday, December 22, 2013

  • Another spectacular home goal by the anti campaigners was their incessant complaining to all and sundry. A case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Pleading letters sent to Councillors, complaints and moaning to MPs, Government Officers castigated, serving leaders vilified, formal complaints made to the Police and even the Royal Family were targeted by some to become involved to try and get their way. The list is a long and very embarrassing one with a catalogue of verbal abuse and threats of this and that which collectively destroyed any fragile chances the campaign may have had. Those who sent out their thoughts probably did to with the best intentions but without stopping to consider just how many others were doing the same destructive things. The left hand never knew what the right hand was doing. A thoroughly miserable failure of a campaign full of missed opportunities.

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    Dickens

    Sunday, December 22, 2013

  • Excellent report summing up from Dan. Perhaps we could make a start by telling GNobbs to tidy himself up and start at least looking like a leader instead of some old faded 'B' movie' has been' - I could elaborate but I leave any further remarks to readers imaginations!!

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    maryjane

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

  • What a weak conclusion What more evidence do you want to convince you that there is any chance of party machines stepping aside.Are the councillors experienced or merely time servers The best people to see us out of the clear mess are obviously not coming forward or are too wise to be drawn into the trivial pursuit of this form of local government

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    No to tory boy

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

  • Nemisis: couldn't agree more however I don't think it is typically the last two administrations who have been inadequate, it has been going on for years however it is only recently that exposure to the public of the council's poor practices have been brought to light by councillors who have not been afraid to speak out and air their concerns. As in all institutions there are many who wish to maintain the status quo and lead a quiet life.

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    maryjane

    Sunday, December 22, 2013

  • When Nobbs was elected Leader in May he had the opportunity to put right the wrongs of the previous administration and bring the out of control NCC officials back into line. Within a month he was praising officials and had written to CLG and Owen Patterson reiterating NCC's support for the incinerator. The previous administration were to blame for allowing the incinerator project to get as far as it did but the Nobbs administration will go down in Norfolk’s history as guilty of cover ups on a grand scale and betraying the rest of the Rainbow Alliance and the electorate.

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    Honest John

    Saturday, December 21, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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