Hunstanton town councillors urged to back unitary move

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A Hunstanton councillor has backed renewed calls for a single unitary authority to run Norfolk’s affairs, and urged his town colleagues to follow suit.

Richard Bird spoke out amid widening debate on the future of local government, which is set to see Sutton Bridge residents given a vote on whether Lincolnshire should adopt the structure.

A call for officials to examine alternative political structures for Norfolk was overwhelmingly rejected by councillors last month.

But, since then, county leader Cliff Jordan has indicated his support for the idea.

Speaking at last Friday’s Hunstanton Town Council meeting, Mr Bird, highlighted plans for Oxfordshire to switch to a unitary structure and the estimated savings.

He said: “Within two years, they reckon they’re going to save £100 million a year from the costs of getting rid of six districts. We’ve got seven. I’ll leave it to your imaginations.”

The unitary question has come back onto the agenda after the collapse of devolution for Norfolk and Suffolk after West Norfolk Council rejected the scheme in November.

Critics say plans for a single unitary Norfolk council would be as fiercely opposed now as they were when they were last put forward in 2009-10.

But Mr Bird said Hunstanton had been a “lone voice” in favour of the scheme in West Norfolk then.

He added: “We should be prepared to have good arguments for a unitary option.”

Meanwhile, Lincolnshire County Council chiefs are seeking to hold a poll in May, coinciding with elections, on whether the county should move to a unitary structure.

County leader Martin Hill said: “I believe the current system is complicated, wasteful and no longer financially sustainable. Without change, important local services are already being reduced and even cut entirely.”