No 'Yartoft' in view says council leader

Fresh speculation that a huge shake-up in local government will eventually lead to a joint authority covering Yarmouth and Lowestoft has been firmly kicked into touch by a council boss.

Fresh speculation that a huge shake-up in local government will eventually lead to a joint authority covering Yarmouth and Lowestoft has been firmly kicked into touch by a council boss.

Mark Bee, leader of Waveney District Council, insisted there was no deal on the horizon for the two seaside towns, which are separated by just 11 miles.

However, his firm resistance to a "Yartoft" council has been criticised by rival politicians, who say nothing should be ruled out until widespread public consultation has taken place.

Proposals for a joint authority were previously proposed and dismissed in the 1960s and late 1990s, but the award of unitary status to Ipswich and a clear indication that Norwich will follow suit has reignited calls for a Yartoft debate.

This, however, does not hold any sway with Mr Bee, who said Waveney would be concentrating on new closer relationships with Suffolk County Council and five other districts in a partnership known as Pathfinder.

"There is nothing on the agenda for a Yartoft council that at the moment," said Mr Bee. "Pathfinder has been successful and there is no opening for a fresh unitary application.

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"For us, the only game in town is Pathfinder and Yartoft just isn't on the horizon. It's not even speculation at the moment because it's not on the agenda.

"Yartoft would be Yarmouth and Lowestoft and not the whole of Waveney, and I wouldn't like to see Waveney broken up. If the people of Halesworth struggle to have any links with Lowestoft, how would they have links with Yarmouth or Caister?"

While Yarmouth and Lowestoft sit in two different counties, close working relationships have been forged in many areas, including a joint health body and the appointment of the 1st East Urban Regeneration Company to promote the growth of both towns. There has also been a sharing of legal resources by the district councils, which are both Tory-run.

While Mr Bee was outspoken in his views, the leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Barry Coleman, was less forthcoming as Norfolk waits to see what impact a unitary authority in Norwich would have on the rest of the county.

Mr Coleman said: "No discussions have taken place, but I would rather not make a comment until we know what the options are and what members feel."

Waveney's Labour MP Bob Blizzard was critical of Mr Bee's comments, saying the issue of Yartoft needed a wide-ranging debate.

He said: "They haven't even consulted with the key local bodies. It is nakedly political and rather arrogant. They are looking at it for their own political ends rather than considering what's best for the community. Councillors are there to serve, not to dictate."

Sally Spore, leader of the opposition Labour group on Waveney District Council, admitted that she had initially supported Waveney's part in Pathfinder, but said since the announcement of unitary authority status, there should be a new debate on Yartoft.

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