Council leaders should decide on future, says Sir Henry Bellingham as he claims he was treated with contempt over devolution

North-West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham

North-West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham - Credit: Archant

One of the leading opponents of plans for an elected mayor for East Anglia has said council leaders should be able to decide if Norfolk's two-tier structure is abolished.

Sir Henry Bellingham said he wanted to act as a 'sort of convener' of Norfolk MPs and council leaders to decide a 'blueprint' for Norfolk.

Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman earlier this week called for local leaders in Norfolk to develop a new plan for public services, suggesting there could be 'one-stop-shop' unitary councils. He says he is working with Sir Henry on coming up with a local solution.

Sir Henry - a vocal opponent of the recent £30m a year Norfolk and Suffolk devolution deal who claimed ahead of a crucial vote there would be a deal further down the road - said they needed to be fully prepared 'when the secretary of state asks us in a year what we want for Norfolk' .

'It needs to not be top down imposed by the government, but bottom up. There needs to be a consensus emerging among the leaders of Norfolk councils.'

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He said there were already changes taking place with many schools leaving Norfolk County Council control and becoming academies, and there were big changes afoot in terms of health and social care joining up.

He also said there was collaboration and cooperation taking place among the districts.

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'Now that is taking place would it be sensible to have enlarged districts? There are lots of different patterns of progress and development taking place and that I think will need in due course changes to the structures. I'm not going to say this it the right way forward for unitary or status quo. It is for council leaders.' But he added: 'The one thing that is going to be the constant here is public impatience over the cost of local government. The fact we are going to be in austerity for quite a long time to come in terms of local government funding. The public are not going to take kindly to unnecessary waste, unnecessary duplication and to perceived inefficiencies. What they want above all else is services that are well delivered and give good value for money. They frankly don't mind too much who delivers them. Most of the time the public don't know, they don't know if it is the county of district who collects their waste, or sorts out schools crossing ladies. What they want are really efficient services at the right values.'

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