City condemns home rule propaganda

Norwich leaders last night accused other local authorities against the city's bid for home rule of spreading “propaganda” and scaremongering the public.

Norwich leaders last night accused local authorities which oppose the city's bid for home rule of spreading "propaganda" and scaremongering.

At a full council meeting, members voted overwhelmingly to submit a final refined unitary status bid to the government following their success in getting the city among 15 shortlisted for the status in January.

The only councillors against the motion were the Conservatives.

Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, told the meeting that "dubious" and "dodgy" information had been circulated among other

council websites and in official papers.

"A lot of criticism being levelled against us doesn't stand up," he said.

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"The way the opposition is being stirred - there is interesting disinformation and propaganda coming out from other councils with spurious figures... a lot of people out there are actually bringing scaremongering into the opposition."

Mr Morphew mentioned a report to South Norfolk Council today that carried, he claimed, "dubious" information.

"People are being invited to comment on things which, when they get to government, the government is likely to look at them and say the basis of the opinion is unsound and discount it.

"The expectation is that we will get unitary status and when we do, they can cry foul and say the government was not listening."

Mr Morphew went on to outline what advantages unitary status would give the city, citing control over decisions on such things as bus services, transport, environmental issues and culture.

But Conservative councillor Antony Little accused the council of having "little to gloat about" compared to the four-star-rated Tory-controlled county council from which it was seeking independence. He also countered the scaremongering claims.

It was also revealed 90 posts could be sacrificed if Norwich wins its bid - but officials told opponents there would be no frontline staff or service cuts.

Mr Morphew said the 90, which would be restricted to backroom services, would be a "drop in the ocean" and would not require any compulsory redundancies.

Outside the meeting he said: "Our proposals will enhance working between the Norfolk districts and the county. The present arrangement means we are all carrying unnecessary inefficiencies and costs which clearly distort the county council figures for consequent costs if Norwich becomes a unitary authority."

The council also said it would continue with its involvement as a partner in the Joint Museums agreement, which is the basis for the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service.

"A unitary council would clearly need to review all partnerships to access the most effective ways of working. However, we would expect a unitary Norwich to be a full partner and a more influential voice for the people of Norwich and Norfolk," said Mr Morphew.