Update on Unitary Status - March 2009

The date for the Boundary Committee's final recommendation has been delayed from 13 February to 15 July by the Secretary of State, meaning the process of laying orders for new unitary authorities in Norfolk, Suffolk and Devon through parliament is likely to be delayed until the end of 2009.

The delay has been caused by Judicial Reviews put forward by some of the district councils in the three counties affected.  The judges in the cases have ruled that the Boundary Committee 'misdirected itself' by believing it could only put forward one option - in fact the Committee must put forward any option that it feels meets the five criteria.  The extension provides the Committee the time required to work on alternative options to the single Norfolk unitary proposed in its draft recommendation.

On 19 March, the Boundary Committee will again publish draft recommendations for public consultation lasting 8 weeks.  After the consultation closes, the Committee will provide its final advice to the Secretary of State, who will then consult for 6 weeks.  After this, she will decide whether to implement, modify or reject the options put forward, and this decision is expected mid-September.

Given the changes to the timescales, the branch feels that if new unitary structures are to be created it is unlikely that the intended start date of April 2010 will be made, and it it more likely that a start date of April 2011 is realistic, although this has not been officially confirmed.

As we have stated before, whatever the outcome of the Local Government Review, the Norwich City Branch position is to protect jobs and services.  It is hoped that the extended timetable will allow us to have more detailed involvement in the process than may otherwise have been possible.