Backing for a 'Yartoft' council

A cross-border unitary council would mean a better deal for people living in Waveney and Yarmouth, opposition councillors have claimed.

A cross-border unitary council would mean a better deal for people living in Waveney and Yarmouth, opposition councillors have claimed.

The proposal to link the two coastal districts under a single-tier local authority is back on the cards this week after a shock turnaround by ministers, but the existing Conservative council leaders say that the plan would be costly and confusing.

Suggestions that Yarmouth and Waveney should join together in a new Yartoft council were originally dismissed when the Boundary Committee, which is currently conducting a £1m review of council structures across the county, said that cross-border options were not possible. However a surprise announcement by local government minister John Healey last week reignited discussions about the council, which would preside over towns in both Norfolk and Suffolk, when he said that existing county boundaries should not stand in the way of unitary plans.

Now Mick Castle, Labour's deputy leader in Yarmouth, has said that councillors from all parties need to work together for the benefit of local residents, whether they live in Suffolk or Norfolk.

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He claims that a unitary council would be the closest form to the existing system, and therefore represent "least change and disruption" for local people and council staff. It would also localise important decision making.

He added: "Whatever the underlying tensions between the Tory groups, both enjoy Conservative control of their councils and would jointly preside over the interim arrangements - although we would expect a good degree of cross-party consensus."

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Waveney MP Bob Blizzard is also backing the proposal and said that it would allow decisions to be made closer to home, instead of in Norwich and Ipswich.

The proposal relies on the similarities between Waveney and Yarmouth, and the two districts already share a Primary Care Trust (PCT) and an urban regeneration company.

Mike Stonard, chief executive of Yarmouth and Waveney PCT, said that linking the towns more closely would benefit residents by reducing the bureaucracy involved in dealing with two separate local authorities.

But the Conservative leaders of both existing councils are against the change, saying that it would be expensive to consider and even more expensive to implement. Mark Bee, leader of Waveney District Council, said: "Such a suggestion is a distraction and would lead to yet more costly and unnecessary upheaval at a time when efficiency should be our priority."

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