Back bench revolt stalls partnership between Fenland and West Norfolk councils

Precise Component Manufacture Ltd who were one of the big winners at last year's Fenland Enterprise

Precise Component Manufacture Ltd who were one of the big winners at last year's Fenland Enterprise and Business Awards. - Credit: Archant

A back bench revolt could derail ambitious plans for Fenland Council to join forces with King's Lynn and West Norfolk to create an economic powerhouse that is already worth £5bn a year.

Fenland Council cabinet was expected to agree the proposals next Thursday and then hours later win agreement from a full council meeting.

The proposed service level agreement between Fenland District Council and West Norfolk Council would cover a population of 251,800 and 10,555 businesses and has been worked on by officers for the past year.

However some back bench Tories believe any tie up with West Norfolk could pave the way for the possibility of Wisbech getting a controversial energy from waste incinerator that, coincidentally, would benefit Norfolk.

At a private meeting of Tory councillors on Thursday night, I understand some expressed concern over the proposed new close relationship with West Norfolk and want other options to be explored.

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In recent years Fenland Council has worked with Peterborough City Council on joint economic development projects but that arrangement was to have been terminated in the wake of a successful partnership with West Norfolk.

Some councillors believe Fenland would be better served going in with East Cambridgeshire District Council; on Friday Fenland council leader Chris Seaton did not respond to my query about what might happen in the wake of his councillors rejecting the deal he planned to put to cabinet.

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The report drawn up senior bosses at Fenland Council backing a partnership with West Norfolk came about after realising 'that both parties to this shared service proposal have much more in common than what separates them.'

Their report suggests that growth stimulated anywhere within the wider geography 'will create economic prosperity both districts can enjoy – after all, businesses do not stop at administrative boundaries'.

Economic prosperity is the goal, says the report, and the new working arrangements offer the chance 'to take a leap forward in proactively seizing opportunities'.

Putting it into perspective, says the report's authors, it would make Fenland and West Norfolk's Gross Added Value (GVA) much greater than Norwich and not far short of that of Cambridge.

For more than three years Fenland has worked with Peterborough City Council to deliver growth and jobs.

But the district council feels now is 'an appropriate time to move forward with Fenland's ambitions to secure more and higher skilled job opportunities, attract new business and expand the existing support provided to businesses'.

The report set to go to cabinet states: 'The economic prosperity of the district remains a key cornerstone to delivering Fenland's growth aspirations.'

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