Ministers asked to spell out terms of co

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Ministers are facing a pincer movement to spell out the precise terms of an overhaul of council services in Norfolk.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Both supporters and opponents of an overhaul of council services in Norfolk are calling on the government to set out the terms of reference it will give to the Boundary Committee charged with looking at the issue.

Yesterday, leading Tories from across the county met in Dereham and were urged not to comply with the committee's November 30 deadline to submit first draft proposals unless they already have the terms of reference and time to consider them.

Conservatives believe the deadline could be illegal, but the move runs the risk that the committee will not accept any subsequent proposals. The Tory-run county council is set to consider its favourite option for a single Norfolk super council on Monday.

Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson, who is raising the issue in Parliament next week, said councils were being bounced into making decisions, so Tory authorities were being advised to hold fire with their proposals until ministers spell out what they want the Boundary Committee to look at.

"Because the government has yet to produce the terms of reference, we have no yardstick by which to measure anything at all," he said. "The feeling is the government is going about this in a completely undemocratic way.

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"Councils should formally write to ministers saying they do not intend to comply with this arbitrary date. Until they have the terms of reference, how can they come up with any options?"

But supporters of Norwich's home rule bid are also pressing for the terms of reference to be produced and are insisting a greater Norwich council should form the first building block of any change after ministers said in July there was a case to be made to look at an enlarged greater Norwich council.

And there is also pressure to include scope for a Yarmouth-Lowestoft merger at the outset.

On Wednesday, Norwich City Council revealed its first draft of what a new greater Norwich Council should look like, taking in 22 extra parishes around the city's current boundaries.

The government is not set to reveal the precise terms of reference until January - more than a month after councils are expected to set out what the new map of local government in Norfolk should look like.

Yesterday, Norwich South MP Charles Clarke met local government minister John Healey to make the case for the city's bid to be included at the outset.

"I have raised the question of a greater Norwich in the terms of reference and I have urged for the process to be completed as fast as possible," he said.

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