Broads mess raises vital questions about unity between our public bodies
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
Ever had one of those arguments that starts off on something relatively insignificant and then just grows and grows until by the end of it you can barely even remember what the fight was about in the first place?
Well, I think we're seeing the local government equivalent play out right now.
As reported by this newspaper, what initially started as a difference of opinion over the future of two boat moorings in the tiny village of Haddiscoe, has escalated into a bitter row involving people in positions of high authority within at least three of our public bodies.
In case you've missed it, I shall quickly summarise.
Two brothers who own the area in question want to utilise it for boat moorings. A decision to refuse was made by officers under delegated powers at the Broads Authority, rather than went to members.
A brouhaha ensued leading that decision to be overturned, but bizarrely the brothers still could not utilise the area as they wanted to. So far, so parochial.
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But it really starts to get messy when the leader of South Norfolk District Council complained about the process, taking that complaint to Norfolk police, presumably with the view that something shady had taken place within an authority he his own council has to work very closely with on all manner of matters.
An officer investigated, determined there to be no criminal case to answer, but still heavily-criticised the Broads Authority and the way it is run.
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This, perhaps unsurprisingly, has caused fury and led bosses at the Broads to complain about that officer and demand their own apology from Norfolk's chief constable.
As a journalist there's no doubt it makes for fantastic, gripping, content, but there are some very serious issues this almighty fall-out raises.
Firstly, there is the time and effort this row has presumably cost some very influential people. You can't help but wonder whether they have more important matters upon which to concentrate their minds.
But what worries me most, is the question marks the saga raises over the ability of some of our councils, and some of the people at the very top of them, to work together for the best of this county.
As we come out of the pandemic, and with all the potential fall-out that is still to unfold, now more than ever we need all of our local authorities to be pointing in the same direction and working harmoniously for the people they serve.
I make no conclusion about who is in the right or wrong on this one, but do know that to have all these complaints and counter complaints flying about can be no good Norfolk as a whole.
And I'll be honest, it's not the first time I've heard mention of late of some of our public representatives not exactly pointing in the same direction.
As you can imagine, in my line of work you are privileged enough to meet lots of influential people, across many different walks of life.
And the feedback I've heard is that, at times, it feels like public bodies, and some of those who work within them, are a bit too interested in supporting the things that make them or their particular organisation look good - and less so if they think the credit will go elsewhere. And if that is the case, it's a big worry.
Of course, I wouldn't expect those in positions of power to agree on absolutely everything. Healthy debate is vital and that is why, after all, we live in a democracy where people get the chance to vote for those people who they think will best represent their views.
But if, ultimately, those people are more concerned with winning petty squabbles and representing their own interests, rather than Norfolk's interests as a whole, something needs to be done about it. And soon.
If not, it will hold back progress within the county and stop us from getting a seat at the top table when it comes to important conversations and negotiations on a national scale. Let's not look like the petty, country bumpkins, some would portray us as.
My challenge to those within power who may be reading this column today is a simple one. The people you serve need a united Norfolk once more. Please make it happen.