Norfolk - Politics

Politics

Norfolk is under the control of Norfolk County Council and is also divided into seven local government districts, Breckland District, Broadland District, Great Yarmouth Borough, King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough, North Norfolk District, Norwich City and South Norfolk. As of 2011 the Conservatives control all of the six districts outside Norwich, while Norwich remains under no overall control with Labour being the largest party.

The county is traditionally a stronghold for the Conservatives, who have always won at least 50% of Norfolk's constituencies since 1979. The countryside is mostly solid Conservative territory, with a few areas being strong for the Liberal Democrats. From 1995 to 2007, South Norfolk was run by the Liberal Democrats but the district switched back to the Conservatives in a landslide in 2007.

Norfolk's urban areas are more mixed, although Norwich and central parts of Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn are strong for the Labour Party UK. This said, Labour's dominance in Norwich has recently been stemmed by the Green Party, who are now the official opposition on Norwich City Council and also hold the greatest number of divisions within the city on Norfolk County Council.

In October 2006, the Department for Communities and Local Government produced a Local Government White Paper inviting councils to submit proposals for unitary restructuring. In January 2007 Norwich submitted its proposal, which was rejected in December 2007 as it did not meet the criteria for acceptance. In February 2008, the Boundary Committee for England (from 1 April 2010 incorporated in the Local Government Boundary Commission for England) was asked to consider alternative proposals for the whole or part of Norfolk, including whether Norwich should become a unitary authority, separate from Norfolk County Council. In December 2009, the Boundary Committee recommended a single unitary authority covering all of Norfolk, including Norwich.

However, on 10 February 2010, it was announced that, contrary to the December 2009 recommendation of the Boundary Committee, Norwich would be given separate unitary status. The proposed change was strongly resisted, principally by Norfolk County Council and the Conservative opposition in Parliament. Reacting to the announcement, Norfolk County Council issued a statement that it would seek leave to challenge the decision in the courts. A letter was leaked to the local media in which the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Communities and Local Government noted that the decision did not meet all the criteria and that the risk of it "being successfully challenged in judicial review proceedings is very high". The Shadow Local Government and Planning Minister, Bob Neill, stated that should the Conservative Party win the 2010 general election, they would reverse the decision.

Following the 2010 general election, Eric Pickles was appointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on 12 May 2010 in a Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government. According to press reports, he instructed his department to take urgent steps to reverse the decision and maintain the status quo in line with the Conservative Party manifesto. However, the unitary plans were supported by the Liberal Democrat group on the city council, and by Simon Wright, LibDem MP for Norwich South, who intended to lobby the party leadership to allow the changes to go ahead.

The Local Government Act 2010 to reverse the unitary decision for Norwich (and Exeter and Suffolk) received Royal Assent on 16 December 2010. The disputed award of unitary status had meanwhile been referred to the High Court, and on 21 June 2010 the court (Mr. Justice Ouseley, judge) ruled it unlawful, and revoked it. The city has therefore failed to attain permanent unitary status, and the previous 2-tier arrangement of County and District Councils (with Norwich City Council counted among the latter) remains the status quo.

Norfolk County Council is Conservative-controlled and led by Derrick Murphy. There are 63 Conservative councillors, 11 Liberal Democrat councillors, 5 Green Party councillors, 3 Labour councillors and 1 UKIP councillor. There was a 63% turnout at the most recent local election.

Following the May 2010 General Election, Norfolk is represented in the House of Commons by seven Conservative Members of Parliament and two Liberal Democrats. The Labour Party have lost the urban areas of Norwich and Great Yarmouth in recent elections, leaving them with no Commons representative in East Anglia; the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke being a high level casualty in the 2010 election.

Norfolk Election Results
Parliamentary 6 May 2010 County Council 4 June 2009
Party Votes Votes % Seats Seats % Party Votes Votes % Seats Seats %
Conservative 188,944 43.1% 7 77.8% Conservative 115,396 45.9% 60 71.4%
Liberal Democrat 121,710 27.8% 2 22.2% Liberal Democrat 56,998 22.7% 13 15.5%
Labour 83,088 19.0% 0 0% Green 18,786 10.8% 7 8.3%
UKIP 20,182 4.6% 0 0% Labour 33,873 13.5% 3 3.6%
Others 24,302 5.5% 0 0% Others 17,764 7.1% 1 1.2%
Totals 438,226 9 251,351 84
Turnout 66.8% 38.6%

Green, LCA, Independents, Others
UKIP, LCA, Independents, Others

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