Home rule threat to vulnerable - claim

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Vulnerable youngsters could slip through the net undetected if ministers press ahead with plans to overhaul council services in Norfolk, it was claim.Ministers favour granting Norwich home rule - the right to run public services in the city currently controlled by county hall - based on enlarged boundaries.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Vulnerable youngsters could slip through the net undetected if ministers press ahead with plans to overhaul council services in Norfolk, it was claim.

Ministers favour granting Norwich home rule - the right to run public services in the city currently controlled by county hall - based on enlarged boundaries.

But Broadland District Council leader Simon Woodbridge has compiled a dossier based on submissions made to the government as part of the consultation into Norwich's original home rule bid.

The Tory councillor is against the bid and his party is spearheading a campaign to fight the proposals, which will also include detailed looks at the impact on services for adults, waste management and libraries.

One extract in the dossier comes from the local safeguarding children's board which expressed grave concerns about the potential risks to children and warned that a unitary Norwich would be unlikely to provide the critical mass of specialist skills currently available on a county-wide basis.

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“Unitary proposals will unnecessarily increase the risk to those children most in need of our care,” the submission said.

The extracts also contained submissions from head teacher Ashley Best-White who said a shake up would weaken services and support for all children in Norfolk.

“I can't see how a unitary reorganisation would be able to replicate, and offer exactly the same services for children, young people and schools. How would they be able to afford it?

“Teachers are very used to change, but reorganisation and a dilution of services would have a negative effect on children in Norwich and Norfolk. It is not helpful to split Norwich children from Norfolk children.”

But Steve Morphew, Labour leader at City Hall, dismissed the claims. “There is absolutely no evidence to support that contention,” Mr Morphew said. “The new council will be designed to be one of the best, if not the best, unitary council in the country.”

Alison Randall, chairman of governors at Framingham Earl High School, feared a change would hit sixth formers.

“I am concerned about what would happen to our sixth form partnership in the event of unitary reorganisation,” she said.

“We have a huge pool of resource in the county that we can call on, including specialist financial advice. There is a wide network of educational advisers for all schools, especially those in difficulty. I believe that unitary reorganisation would narrow the field down, in terms of reciprocal arrangements between schools and these new unitary authorities.”

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