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Unitary calls set to shake up East Anglia

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Uncertainty over boundaries

A swathe of East Anglian councils face reorganisation after the proposed expansion of Norwich City Council led to predictions of the imposition of new unitaries.

Labour councillors stoked fears of widespread restructuring last week by calling for a unitary council spanning the Norfolk/Suffolk boundary.

The party's opposition group leaders at Great Yarmouth BC and Waveney DC argued that the councils are a natural fit since they both cover coastal regeneration areas.

Council boundaries in Norfolk have been thrown into uncertainty since the government asked Norwich to prepare a revised unitary bid based on an expanded area. That would see the city absorbing parts of Broadland DC and South Norfolk Council, triggering a redrawing of adjacent council boundaries.

But the plan for Waveney and Great Yarmouth, already covered by a single primary care trust, suggests the disruption could extend to Suffolk.

A senior source in one council said of the Department for Communities & Local Government's officials: "We knew they would look at the effect [Greater Norwich has] on the rest of Norfolk. The qualification we've been getting is there will be a unitary solution across Norfolk."

In reference to the Great Yarmouth/Waveney plan, the source continued: "It threatens to destabilise Suffolk. For that reason it could be ruled out."

The source predicted that Norfolk could be divided into as many as four unitaries.

Sally Spore, Waveney's Labour group leader, said: "If things are changing, this is the way to go. We have more in common with Great Yarmouth than Suffolk." She said local Labour MPs Bob Blizzard and Tony Wright had backed the idea in a letter to local government minister John Healey.

Waveney leader Mark Bee (Con) said: "The bid is a distraction. Our place is in Suffolk."

Boundary commissioners are due next month to start the process of reconfiguring councils were Norwich to grow.

North Norfolk DC chief executive Philip Burton said: "This will be discussed by all the councils, but I do not know if we will reach a consensus."

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