Fears over effect of home rule bid

Fears were raised yesterday that Norwich's bid for home rule could have a negative impact on wider areas of Norfolk. Norwich City Council leader Steve Morphew faced tough questions from South Norfolk councillors about the effects the proposals for unitary status could have on people living in the area.

Fears were raised yesterday that Norwich's bid for home rule could have a negative impact on wider areas of Norfolk.

Norwich City Council leader Steve Morphew faced tough questions from South Norfolk councillors about the effects the proposals for unitary status could have on people living in the area.

Norwich's bid - which has made a government shortlist - is based on the city's existing boundaries but concerns were expressed about the impact on Norfolk residents if those boundaries were extended.

Anticipated increases in council tax and a detrimental impact on services were listed as key concerns at a meeting of South Norfolk Council's cabinet. But Mr Morphew stressed that the current bid was based on existing boundaries and that if it was successful there would be no increase in council tax.

“The fixed point is that there will be no increase in the council tax and the Treasury has told us that if there was we would not get it,” he said.

“We have a bid on existing boundaries and have been shortlisted on that. The bid is not about extended boundaries. We have not had the opportunity to do the work on that, but if it comes up we will do the work. We are trying to come up with a system that is better for everybody.”

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Mr Morphew also fended off suggestions that political pressure had been used to try and push through the bid.

“If we started to be politically heavy with the Treasury we might as well cut our own throat because it wouldn't work,” he said. “They are only going to be interested in whether the numbers stack up and if they don't we are dead in the water.”

He added: “Norwich is really important to us and we need to make sure it is successful in delivering what we expect as a city.”

South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller described the bid as a “risky enterprise” and said: “I feel this is a leap into the dark. I think it is a risk based on imponderables going for unitary status on existing boundaries and a leap into the dark going for extended boundaries.

“We do not really know what the effects will be and what the effects will be on South Norfolk. Not only is this a financial risk, this is a risk for some of the most vulnerable people in society in the doubling up of bureaucracy. Another option would be to work more closely together. Norfolk and Norwich go together and that is where we should focus our efforts.”

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