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‘Complete farce’ - council unable to cancel meeting but can’t discuss agenda

PUBLISHED: 06:00 04 February 2020

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group on Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group on Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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A council has been blasted for being forced to hold a meeting branded a “expensive joke” despite being unable to discuss any of the proposals.

A map of the current Norfolk electoral boundaries. Pic: The Local Government Boundary Commission for England.A map of the current Norfolk electoral boundaries. Pic: The Local Government Boundary Commission for England.

County councillors were set to meet to vote on their response to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, which has been considering a new pattern of council divisions.

The commission says a review of the Norfolk divisions was needed because of an "electoral imbalance" but did not propose cutting councillor numbers.

And councillors were due to vote on their response - including consultations from the district councils - at an extraordinary meeting on Monday, February 3.

But after South Norfolk Council told the Boundary Commission on Friday, January 31, that the numbers used to predict future resident numbers in the district were incorrect, the council was asked to reformat its response - meaning councillors were unable to discuss it at Monday's meeting.

Liberal Democrats county council leader Ed Maxfield. Picture: Liberal DemocratsLiberal Democrats county council leader Ed Maxfield. Picture: Liberal Democrats

However, having convened the meeting, the council said it had received legal advice that it was obliged to hold it anyway - in a move which was criticised by opposition councillors.

READ MORE: 'A waste of time and money' - extra meeting over council division shake-up blasted

Councillors were told by Tom McCabe, head of paid service, the "huge amount of work" could not be discussed, but the boundary commission had extended the deadline until Tuesday, March 24.

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He said: "The county council submission for the whole of Norfolk will have to be redone using a revised methodology."

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group, said group leaders had not been properly consulted.

"It's important as a matter of principle," he said. "If there is a constitutional right to be consulted it should be adhered to."

And he added: "If we are going to use expediency for overruling some of the aspects of the council, why are we sitting here today?

"Are we really going to be taken to court by anybody for not convening a meeting? Are we going to ask 40 to 50 councillors to turn up to do absolutely nothing?"

And Liberal Democrat leader Ed Maxfield said the whole process had become "an expensive joke and a complete farce".

Council leader Andrew Proctor said: "Given the communication received on Friday afternoon I can't move the motion I intended to move. Instead I move a motion to adjourn the business."

The proposals will be heard at a meeting on Monday, March 23.

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