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Delay in controversial debate

PUBLISHED: 15:08 09 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:24 05 July 2010

OPPONENTS of controversial plans to overhaul town halls in Suffolk and Norfolk believe the process has shifted closer to being kicked into the long grass after ministers today agreed to delay an announcement until July.

OPPONENTS of controversial plans to overhaul town halls in Suffolk and Norfolk believe the process has shifted closer to being kicked into the long grass after ministers today agreed to delay an announcement until July.

The independent Boundary Committee was due on Friday to unveil its final recommendation on whether to create a new single super council covering Norfolk and Lowestoft or rival patterns involving a doughnut council covering the greater Norwich area or a wedge linking the city with Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

But the committee asked for more time after councils challenged the process in the High Court - with an appeal due next week.

In a statement the Boundary Committee said it “welcomes the Secretary of State's recognition that, in the light of the ongoing legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate for the Committee to provide any advice by 13 February.

“We wrote to the Secretary of State on 23 January explaining that in our view the deadline of 13 February was no longer realistic,” the statement said. “We are mindful of the need to end the period of uncertainty for residents and their local authorities. The Committee will now consider next steps.”

Councils are now pondering their reaction to the delay - but campaigners fighting to keep the status quo believe that the decision means the process is dead and buried particularly if there is a general election in the autumn.

South Norfolk council leader John Fuller said: “It's an embarrassment for the Boundary Committee and a humiliation for the government.

“We've always said they are rushing this through,” he added. “I don't know why the government isn't honest with the people of Norfolk, Suffolk and Devon and pull the plug on the whole thing.”

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