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Government introduces urgent Bill to stop unitaries for Exeter, Norwich and Suffolk

The government yesterday sounded the death knell for the proposed unitary councils in Exeter and Norwich after it introduced an urgent Bill in Parliament revoking the orders creating them.

The move will also see all restructuring plans in Suffolk stopped, with the consultation on changes in the county brought to a close. Councils had been asked to establish a county constitutional convention to reach a consensus on a unitary structure for Suffolk.

It is expected that, subject to Parliament’s approval, the Bill will be enacted in the summer.

Justifying the decision, the government pointed to the Boundary Commission’s recommendation in December 2009 that the unitary plans for Exeter and Norwich should not be implemented.

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The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, said it was “ludicrous that taxpayers’ money is being wasted imposing a council reorganisation” when the priority was to tackle the country’s public deficit.

He added: “I am pulling the plug on this expensive distraction and saving the taxpayer £40m of restructuring costs. Councils in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk will now be able to concentrate on delivering services to their communities and achieving genuine savings for the local people who elected them.”

The decision by the previous government to implement unitary councils in Exeter and Norwich was subject to a judicial review challenge by Devon and Norfolk county councils.

Judgement from the High Court hearing held on 28 and 29 April 2010 has been reserved.

Exeter City Council previously said it “intends to pursue all options at its disposal” to retain creation of a unitary council.


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