Call to look again at creating unitary councils in Norfolk - to save taxpayers’ money

Toby Coke, leader of the UKIP group at Norfolk County Council. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Toby Coke, leader of the UKIP group at Norfolk County Council. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A call has been made for work to start to pave the way for a unitary council or councils in Norfolk.

Following the decision by five councils to reject the government's devolution proposals for Norfolk and Suffolk, there have been suggestions local government needs reorganisation.

At a meeting of Norfolk County Council on Monday, UKIP leader Toby Coke will call for the council to ask officers to prepare detailed unitary options, with a view to submitting proposals to the Secretary of State, for 'alternative governance' for the county.

Mr Coke says a report by EY, which looked at unitary savings in general, suggested single unitary councils could save up to £29m a year, two unitary councils up to £19m and three unitary councils between £4m and £10m.

He wants officers to provide a Norfolk-specific breakdown of savings, efficiencies and implementation costs of pursuing unitary or sticking with the status quo.

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Mr Coke said: 'It's not advocating any system over another, but I am convinced there are huge savings to be had.

'There's a conflict of interests between the county and the districts in terms of duplication, with people on telephone number salaries.

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'I am sure anyone who pays council tax would be interested.'

But switching to unitary councils - single tier authorities rather than the current two-tier system - proved one of the most divisive issues in local government in recent years.

In 2008, Norwich put forward a bid for unitary status and the county council responded by proposing a unitary Norfolk - which would have seen districts abolished had it happened.

One of the first acts of the coalition government was to stop Norwich getting unitary status.

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