[Mrs. Joan Humble in the Chair] — Unitary Authorities

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:46 am on 24th February 2009.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Shadow Secretary of State for Health 9:46 am, 24th February 2009

One reason why I was opposed to the unitary bid from Norwich was that I did not want local government structures to cut north Norfolk off from Norwich. People in north Norfolk see Norwich as the capital of the county. They often use services in Norwich because there are none in rural areas. For instance, when I have constituents who need advice on benefits issues, there is often not sufficient expertise in rural areas, although citizens advice bureaux do a good job, so they gravitate to Norwich. That is where many of the services for people in the rural parts of the county are provided.

My argument on public involvement is that there should have been a Norfolk convention to bring everyone together, both political parties and non-political players, to have a full discussion about Norfolk's needs, and that then the process should have resulted in a vote by the people of Norfolk.

My third point is that the result, as the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk said, has been a monumental and scandalous waste of public money and a diversion of local authorities away from the core jobs that they are there to do. It is outrageous that interference from the centre has forced councils into a botched and incompetent process that has resulted in vast sums of public money being diverted into campaigns on each side of the equation to preserve positions. That money has not been spent on the people who need the support of local councils, and it is often the most vulnerable who suffer as a result of money not being available for them.