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Support for new 'super' council

PUBLISHED: 09:54 16 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:17 05 July 2010

The threat of a public split in the Tory ranks over a super council for Norfolk and Lowestoft receded yesterday after Norfolk county councillors backed the scheme - albeit grudgingly.

The threat of a public split in the Tory ranks over a super council for Norfolk and Lowestoft receded yesterday after Norfolk county councillors backed the scheme - albeit grudgingly.

Council rules were suspended during a special session to discuss the unitary options available to allow a five-point motion put forward by deputy leader Harry Humphrey to be debated, ahead of the ruling cabinet's formal response to the Boundary Committee.

Usually councillors are given details of motions a week in advance - but the Tory group proposal

was only thrashed out over the weekend - a hint at the disagreements about the best way forward common to all three main political parties.

The motion restated the Tory belief that the existing structure was “entirely adequate” and the status quo should have been included as an option. It also said Lowestoft should not be taken out of Suffolk and better results could be achieved by improved joint working and shared services between existing councils.

But tellingly, it concluded that of the options available the single council was the best one, and it demanded that no change to the status quo should be implemented without being put to a vote “by the government for people of Norfolk” - a form of words which could in fact help dodge the vexed question of a local referendum.

Council leader Daniel Cox urged councillors to consider what was best for Norfolk, when considering the unitary issue.

“It may be uncomfortable but then no rational politician of any colour ever expects leadership to be comfortable or come easy,” he said. “I don't see this as the county versus city, borough or district issue. Nor

do I see the debate as Conservatives versus Labour, versus Lib Dem

or Green. Where people express a view on the actual choices in front of us at this stage, a clear majority feel like me, that the preferred option for a single unitary council is very evidently the best.”

Labour group leader Sue Whitaker, who supports the alternative

'wedge' model of a tie-up between Yarmouth, Norwich and Lowestoft, said the Tories were trying to

­ mask their own splits, while she dismissed the single unitary as the easy option.

“We have got the leader of the council telling us what a wonderful thing this is and we should go for it… (and) the deputy leader telling us it's a load of old cobblers,” she said. “Why do we think that the status quo is so wonderful? It is broke and it does need fixing.”

Lib Dem leader Paul Morse, said most of his group favoured the super council option but there was concern about accountability. A debate was also needed about whether it was a shift towards full-time salaried councillors.

Green councillor Andrew Boswell, said his party now favoured a unitary council for the Norwich area and retaining the status quo in the rest of Norfolk.

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