Unitary manager to take chief position

SHAUN LOWTHORPE City Hall chiefs have tasked the man responsible for its previous home rule bid to become its new £90,000 a year director of transformation. Norwich City Council has appointed Paul Spencer to lead its work in supporting the Boundary Committee review of Norwich and Norfolk and oversee its preparations for unitary status.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

City Hall chiefs have tasked the man responsible for its previous home rule bid to become its new £90,000 a year director of transformation.

Norwich City Council has appointed Paul Spencer to lead its work in supporting the Boundary Committee review of Norwich and Norfolk and oversee its preparations for unitary status.

Recruiting for the new post sparked claims the council was jumping the gun in its bid to become a new greater Norwich authority, while there were also mutterings that Mr Spencer, the current unitary bid manager, had been a shoo-in for the job because of his previous experience.

But Mr Spencer, 47, who has been leading the city's bidding process for the last 18 months and helped implement a new unitary council in Milton Keynes during the last round of local government reorganisation in the 1990s, dismissed the suggestions last night.

“Clearly having worked on at the council and having produced the bid in the first place and having led a unitary implementation in Milton Keynes, I had a strong background that fitted the role, but I still faced a rigorous process,” he said.

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On Wednesday the boundary committee met with council leaders in Norwich setting out how they had to draw up plans for an overhaul of council services across Norfolk.

The father-of-two, who was born in Norwich and lived in the county until he was four, said his new job would initially be split between preparing a new greater Norwich bid, and later drawing up the detailed picture of how the new council should deliver services such as education, care for the elderly and waste collection.

“What we need to do is put together a compelling case for greater Norwich,” he said. “Then we will need to go through service and contract by contract to work out what the most suitable answer is terms of disaggregating services and then re-aggregating them.

“In the next six to nine months it will be quite a small team of three or four people. However if there is a green light for a greater Norwich council there will probably be around 30 to 40 people on the team looking at all the key areas such as children's services, adult social services and HR functions.”

He said while no decisions had been taken, in some cases, such as the fire service, it may be better to maintain the existing county-wide set up.

He also hoped to convene a meeting of council officers from across the county to begin to look at the way forward.

“We will be going back to the drawing board and developing a new boundary proposal,” he added. “This is a very complex and demanding process and we cannot afford to waste any time. We had 2 ½ years in Milton Keynes and that wasn't long enough. We have only got 2 ¼ years here.”

He currently commutes to work from Aylesbury, but is in the process of buying a flat and was keen to make a permanent move to the city once his teenage son had completed his schooling.

“I was born in Norwich and I am delighted to be able to return here to lead the unitary implementation process, which will have such a hugely beneficial impact on the future of the city, the county and the wider eastern region,” he added.

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