John Fuller is Leader of South Norfolk Council. Here he lambasts Government proposals to reorganise local government in Norfolk, Suffolk & Devon
Last Friday marked the passing of a deadline for ‘stakeholders’ to tell the Boundary Committee what they think of proposals to restructure Local Government in Norfolk, Suffolk & Devon. If enacted, the plans would see 24 local councils abolished and replaced with four monopoly super-councils, one in each of Norfolk and Devon and two in Suffolk…. except that Lowestoft in Suffolk would be dragged kicking and screaming into Norfolk. Are you still with me?
Now, put to one side for the moment the ridiculousness of the notion of a single local council for Norfolk [plus Lowestoft] representing nearly a million people, rather more than Birmingham in over twenty times the size. Or another way, twice the size of Luxembourg with twice the population of a state with a permanent place at the EU top table. Or socially experimenting with single council so vast that, if it started at Hyde Park Corner, it would go past Brighton into the English Channel by about 20 miles. You get the idea.
In a withering critique, the distinguished Professor of Local Government Stephen Leach has worked out that a typical ward councillor’s workload in such an arrangement would amount to 75 hours per week, something outlawed in the 1830’s whilst others have realised that the sort of people Hazel Blear’s White Paper “Communities in Control” wants to encourage into public service: the young, the marginalised, disabled, and even those who cannot drive would be excluded from serving the only county yet to be connected to London by dual carriageway and with a lousy public transport system to boot.