‘The current local governance model for Norfolk is unsustainable’

Cliff Jordan, leader of Norfolk County Council. Picture: Submitted

Cliff Jordan, leader of Norfolk County Council. Picture: Submitted - Credit: Submitted

It is good to see that Conservative Norfolk County Council leader Councillor Cliff Jordan has had a damascene conversion on his thoughts that a single unitary authority is now the most viable way out of Norfolk's financial black hole.

Indeed, his conversion was welcomed by Mid-Norfolk MP, George Freeman, who is also the prime minister's policy adviser.

Not surprising, given the secretary of state for the Department for Communities and Local Government's enthusiastic support for unitary proposals proposed by Conservative-controlled Dorset, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

It is hard to agree to a 4.8pc council tax increase, when all but the UKIP group at County Hall, just before Christmas, voted to bury their heads in the sand, kick the can down the road, continue to whinge about government cuts to the Revenue Support Grant (zero by 2020), blame everybody and everything else in order to preserve the interests of those benefiting from the status quo, rather than getting a business plan together for a unitary solution for the new council to consider post May.

The current local governance model for Norfolk is unsustainable if services are to be maintained in a climate of ever increasing demand and revenue cuts to fund the absurdity of overseas aid and other vanity projects.

A single unitary solution for Norfolk is not a panacea. Like any organisation it will be as good as the people running it and will take at least two years to implement, but a study published by the County Council Network last September showed annual savings of £23-29m with one-off implementation costs of £10-15m for Norfolk, based on what has actually been achieved in other counties that have chosen this route.

Surely there is no time to lose in getting a business plan together, which must be put to the electorate in the form of an advisory poll, together with any other viable options.

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Let the people decide. It will be a simple choice between relentless and ever-increasing council tax rises or a reorganisation of local governance in Norfolk that will both mitigate the need for increases in council tax and produce the savings necessary to maintain front line services.

Cllr Richard (Toby) Coke, Leader, group NCC, Gayton and Nar Valley Division