Plan to explore closer working between Broadland and South Norfolk agreed in face of financial “cliff edge”

Andrew Proctor and John Fuller, leaders of Broadland District Council and South Norfolk Council.

Andrew Proctor and John Fuller, leaders of Broadland District Council and South Norfolk Council. - Credit: Archant

Warnings of a financial 'cliff edge' by 2020 were made by the leader of Broadland District Council as its members unanimously agreed to explore the possibility of closer working with South Norfolk.

At an extraordinary council meeting this evening, councillors were asked to give the green light to a £25,000 feasibility study over the next four to six months with a view to 'shared working' across their offices.

Council leader Andrew Proctor told the meeting there was 'a recognition jobs will be at risk', and full staff briefings have been held at Broadland.

Chief executive Phil Kirby said he believed there was a 'compelling and persuasive case' to push ahead with the study.

'This is not about a merger of the two councils,' he stressed. 'Whatever the outcome the two councils will retain their individual sovereignty.'

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Mr Proctor added: 'This is nothing new across local government. The government is talking about collaboration and you would expect us to have a local choice. This is one way of achieving that choice.

'This is not creating a path to a unitary council. This is looking at the options and opportunities, and part of that is driving the economic growth in Broadland and South Norfolk.'

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He said the proposal was a 'follow-on from devolution', but reiterated the council's commitment to Greater Norwich.

'There are financial challenges ahead and this is a means to respond,' he said. 'We are financially sound but there is a cliff edge around 2020.'

The revenue support grant - a general grant given to councils by the government each year - is due to end by 2020 and there is a lack of clarity over plans for councils to retain 100pc of business rates.

'It is not just about money, it is about service delivery, and it is not about taking an axe to the organisation,' added Mr Proctor. 'The impact on staff is the primary concern for us.'

Liberal Democrat Dan Roper queried whether other districts in the county had been considered for 'closer working' deals.

'It might seem a coincidence these councils are two of the willing in terms of devolution,' he said.

'Anyone looking at the councils in Norfolk will be struck by their size and capacity to deliver services for their districts. It makes sense for there to be greater collaboration between district councils.'

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