Cllr Bill Borrett is Leader of the Conservative Group on Norfolk County Council
A week ago, the bell tolled for Norfolk County Council and a curtain was slowly lowered on twelve years of fast, accountable decision-making as the County Council passed a binding resolution to move to a committee system of governance. Slow, anachronistic and shrouded in mystery, a return to the Committee System has long been opposed by the Conservative Group; the idea that “all Members” are involved in decision-making.
In reality, the committee system will offer little more than an illusion of democratic accountability as the political groups making up the rag-tag-and-bobtail-coalition reach agreements behind closed doors and arrive at committees with their minds made up and closed to real debate.
This is the latest in a series of unfortunate decisions for the people of Norfolk who have seen outrageous delay in Council decisions, costing more money and, ultimately, affecting the services in their communities.
Enterprising Norfolk, the initiative of the previous Conservative administration, has been abandoned: gone are the opportunities to generate income independent of HM Treasury and safeguard highly-regarded public services by money earned through commercial activity. Instead the Labour/Liberal-Democrat/UKIP administration moves in one direction, then another, never sure of its position, never moving in a common direction, not taking the difficult but badly-needed decisions in the interest of our constituents.
In place of our commercial focus and innovative savings proposals, the new administration struggles to close a £50m black hole in its finances and tells people they have a genuine say in their consultation to save £140m – when the shortfall is £189m.
Senior Officers depart the Council for pastures green, where decisions can still be taken in public and the possibility of intervention because of financial uncertainty is much less.
Far from considering the Prime Minister’s mantra, “We’re all in this together”, our local coalition is considering, “We’re in this for ourselves”.