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County council leader Cliff Jordan claims two tier government has “run its course” and calls for unitary referendum

PUBLISHED: 21:15 07 November 2017 | UPDATED: 21:19 07 November 2017

Norfolk County Council roadshow. Left to right: MD Wendy Thomson, host Nick Conrad and leader Cliff Jordan. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

Norfolk County Council roadshow. Left to right: MD Wendy Thomson, host Nick Conrad and leader Cliff Jordan. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

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The leader of Norfolk County Council has claimed the two tier system of local government has “run its course” and pushed for a referendum for a unitary authority.

The council is touring Norfolk to engage with residents as funding for local authorities continues to be cut to the bone.

At the first event in Mattishall, Mr Jordan was asked if a unitary system would be more effective than the tiers of a county council and district councils.

He said when the idea was floated in the 1990s it was “a black time” for Norfolk as the districts and county “fell out for years”.

“The problem you have got is some councillors like what they have got in the two tier system,” he said. “Personally I think it has run its course.

“I would think one department would be cheaper then seven. The problem you have is convincing the MPs to support it because they don’t.

“When you look at it coldly, it is obvious a unitary system is more efficient. If the public were to write to their districts saying they want a referendum all the councils would have to debate it which would then force a referendum. You would then have a voice.”

Questions were also raised around use of council assets, road maintenance, and the rising cost of the NDR, in the room of 30 to 40 people.

Tom McCabe, director of community and environmental services, said the cost of the NDR to date has been swollen by delays caused by the utility companies, and warned the final price would be “a battering”.

He promised a case is being made to Government for the western link, which could see diggers move in within five years.

“We have had a contractor in Balfour Beatty who has made up a lot of time whenever it has had issues thrown at it,” said Mr McCabe. “There is a cost to that and the client - the county council and us all as taxpayers - end up picking up that cost.

“We have the go ahead to do the next 12 months of development work for the western link and over the next 12 months whittle down a range of schemes to a preferred route. We can then encourage government to throw a chunk of cash at it.

“One question is do we learn from the battering we are going to get over the coming months as the final price of the NDR appears and go for a fixed contract in the future.”

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