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Accusations fly over Norfolk unitary plans

PUBLISHED: 07:07 24 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:22 06 July 2010

Council leaders were last night accused of trying to feather their own nests and protect their own power bases after launching a fresh attempt to scupper plans for new unitary councils in Norfolk.

Council leaders were last night accused of trying to feather their own nests and protect their own power bases after launching a fresh attempt to scupper plans for unitary councils in Norfolk.

The Norfolk Local Government Association (LGA) yesterday backed a motion by Breckland Council leader William Nunn to support the current system of district and county councils and carry out a £40,000 Mori poll to gauge the public's view.

Supporters believe the move means that there is a united front around supporting the status quo - and the public will be given the chance to have their say, but critics believe the Tory-led districts are burying their heads in the sands.

The Boundary Committee is set to rule on the merits of two options - a single Norfolk super council, and a doughnut option comprising greater Norwich and a rural 'rest of Norfolk'.

District councils, and county council leader Daniel Cox, supported the motion, but Norwich City Council leader Steve Morphew voted against. "It seems extraordinary given that they are looking to create a unitary by stealth," said Mr Morphew. "There are 50-odd councillors who are already working across two-tiers, and it means they are making double the claims on expenses while maintaining their own staff and turning their back on a system which could save tens of millions of pounds."

Paul Morse, leader of the opposition Lib Dems at County Hall, also voted against the plans.

"We shouldn't be ruling out unitary and we need to look at it properly, but my concern is we could end up with the doughnut, and I don't support that," he said.

Nick Daubney, leader of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, rejected the claims, and said there was a new determination to fight for the status quo. "I'm pleased because it's the first time we have been united," he said. "The Boundary Committee and the government have never taken the steps to engage with the public and ask them what they think."

The motion bears many similarities to a measure put forward by Mr Nunn at full council last week - the latest attempt to shoehorn the county council into reneging support for its own super-council bid.

A debate was put off after chief executive David White warned that councillors could be seen to have a conflict of interest since 50 of the 84 county councillors are also district councillors.

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