Agenda item

Urgent Item - Budget Bid for Local Government Review (Agenda Item 14)

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Minutes:

This item was taken before exclusion of the press and public.

 

In the absence of the Deputy Chief Executive the Strategic Director (Services) presented this item.

 

The purpose of the report was to request funds for joint working with other Local Authorities in Norfolk (King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, South Norfolk and North Norfolk) to mount objections to the Boundary Committee’s proposal.

 

Many issues needed to be addressed including evidence of affordability and democratic representation.  The Boundary Committee had failed to carry out comparative analysis on the proposal submitted.

 

Officers were to take steps to launch a campaign to persuade the Secretary of State to abandon the proposal.  Three work streams had been identified:

 

1.      a critique of the proposals;

2.      a media campaign; and

3.      consideration of a judicial review

 

It was proposed to hire experts to help to challenge the proposal.  The work should be commissioned immediately and Members were requested to release funds to enable this.

 

The Leader of the Council added that the motivation behind this fight was the belief that the proposal would do nothing to improve things for the residents of Breckland.

 

The Leader of the Labour Group questioned this motivation.  He said that the police, the PCTs and the County Council all supported the proposal.  He felt the nub of the matter was the proposed reduction in Councillors under the new proposal and asked why there was no mention of the ‘Super Councillors’ that might come into being.

 

He asked what evidence there was to support a judicial review which could cost huge amounts of money and could drag on for a very long time.

 

Another Labour Member suggested that the people of Norfolk did want this change and that the money did not belong to the Council, but to the people of Norfolk and should not be used for this purpose.

 

Many Members refuted this suggestion and spoke of meetings with Parish Councils and residents who were appalled at the proposal.

 

An Independent Member said he was in a ‘cleft stick’ position.  He believed in a unitary authority but felt this proposal was the worst possible option for Norfolk.  He did not think that the fight should be to maintain the status quo, but that the ‘Nutcracker’ proposal should be put forward.  He also asked why only four authorities were prepared to spend money on this.  He concluded by saying he would approve of the money being released if it was used to support a proper unitary authority.

 

The Leader of the Council responded to this by saying that many different proposals had been put forward – 22 or 23 in all.  All had been rejected but no guidance had been provided as to why; which was why it was necessary to critique and challenge the Boundary Committee’s proposal.

 

He agreed that the fight should not be to maintain the status quo, but to provide an enhanced status quo.

 

After further discussion it was RESOLVED to:

 

(1)               authorise the Leader, in consultation with the Chief Executive, to take such steps as may be required to mount effective objections to the Boundary Committee’s draft proposal and the County Council’s concept for the replacement of the existing system of two tier local government in Norfolk with a County unitary authority or either of the other options put forward for discussion; and

(2)               that a budget of up to £100,000 be allocated for the purpose of funding the action specified in part (1) above.

 

Mr Balaam, Mr Fanthorpe and Mr Goreham voted against the recommendation.