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Local Government (East Anglia)

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 27 October 2009

12. When he next expects to meet representatives of local authorities from East Anglia to discuss local government reorganisation. (295532)

There will be an opportunity for delegations, including local authorities, to make oral representations to Ministers once the independent boundary committee’s process is concluded, following the outcome of the ongoing Appeal Court case.

Is the Minister aware that these proposals have been met with overwhelming opposition throughout Norfolk and Suffolk? She mentioned the case in the Appeal Court. Why is the boundary committee spending tens of thousands of pounds on appealing against the earlier judgment? Surely the time has come for her to tell the boundary committee to put a stop to these discredited proposals.

Obviously, we are awaiting the outcome of the Appeal Court hearing. The hon. Gentleman asked why the process was taking so long; I assure him that we will act as quickly as possible to bring it to a conclusion following the outcome of the hearing. Until then, it would not be appropriate for me to comment.

Does the Minister accept that the Government’s proposals will place a financial burden on all households in Norfolk for something which—as my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) pointed out—local people simply do not want and do not need?

As I have said, while the boundary committee process is ongoing, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on particular patterns of the proposals. I should add, however, that there is clear evidence that unitary local government can bring substantial efficiency gains, which can then be used to improve services or reduce council tax. I know that that is not a policy followed by the hon. Gentleman’s party.