West Norfolk MP backs shake-up of county’s councils

Election  at Lynnsport King's Lynn'Elizabeth Truss
Election at Lynnsport King's Lynn'Elizabeth Truss

A West Norfolk MP says she would back the creation of two new councils for Norfolk in a radical shake-up of the county’s local government structures.

The issue of how the county is governed has come into sharp focus in recent months, amid ongoing concerns about the pressure on local authorities’ finances.

That has led some to call for the revival of a controversial plan to create a single unitary council for the county, which would replace the existing two-tier system of county and district authorities.

A similar proposal was abandoned in 2010, following an intensive campaign by West Norfolk-based politicians against it.

But, during a meeting with parish, borough and county council officials in Terrington St John on Friday, South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said she would prefer a two-authority solution.

She said: “I’m very much of the view that we need to look at how Norfolk councils work overall. It’s very confusing for people to know who to turn to.

“I would like to see two unitaries in the county, a West Norfolk unitary closer to the issues here.”

West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long said he agreed with the idea of councils sharing services, but was worried about the implications of such a system in areas such as adult social care.

Spending in that area accounts for around half of the near six per cent increase in the county’s share of council tax, which was approved by councillors last month.

He said: “A unitary in the west of the county would have a disproportionately large number of vulnerable and elderly people.

“That would be almost impossible, under the current arrangements, to fund.”

But Ms Truss responded: “We’re currently consulting on a new funding formula. We recognise the current formula is unfair to rural areas.”

There were also calls for reform following the rejection by several councils, including West Norfolk, of devolution proposals for Norfolk and Suffolk in the autumn of 2016.