Warning of 'one hell of a battle' if shake-up of Norfolk councils gains traction

PUBLISHED: 06:30 13 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:57 13 November 2017

Could Norfolk councils be in for a shake-up? Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Could Norfolk councils be in for a shake-up? Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

"One hell of a battle" will be fought should the idea of a unitary Norfolk gain traction with the government, says the leader of one of the district councils which could disappear if it becomes a reality.

Brian Long, leader of West Norfolk Council. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Brian Long, leader of West Norfolk Council. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Cliff Jordan, the leader of Norfolk County Council, caused controversy last week when claimed the two tier system of local government has “run its course” and pushed for a referendum for a unitary authority.

Mr Jordan is understood to have floated the idea of a unitary Norfolk in a letter which he sent to the government earlier this year, as he asked for help in dealing with County Hall’s £125m funding gap over the next four years.

And, at an event in Mattishall he said: “The problem you have got is some councillors like what they have got in the two tier system. Personally I think it has run its course.

“I would think one department would be cheaper then seven. The problem you have is convincing the MPs to support it because they don’t.

“When you look at it coldly, it is obvious a unitary system is more efficient. If the public were to write to their districts saying they want a referendum all the councils would have to debate it which would then force a referendum. You would then have a voice.”

His comments re-open a debate which sparked bitter dispute when local government reorganisation was mooted a decade ago.

And Brian Long, leader of West Norfolk Council and one of Mr Jordan’s fellow Conservatives at County Hall, said it risked doing so again.

Mr Long said: “That’s not the solution and if the button is pressed to try to make that happen, the backlash will be very strong from the district councils.

“The reality is that district councils are already very efficient, with lots of joint working and I’d really doubt the savings the county might think can be made could be dragged out.

“Do we spent all this time and effort looking at reorganisation again? My answer is no and if that is pursued then they can expect one hell of battle.”

But Mr Long said a debate was needed on whether adult social services should be run by a national social care service, rather than by local councils.

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