England

Exeter and Norwich unitary status plans formally ended

Exeter (l) and Norwich
Image caption Exeter and Norwich are not to take over county council services

Plans for Exeter and Norwich to take over all council services have formally ended with Commons approving the Local Government Bill.

The cities were granted permission by the Labour government to take over county council services, including schools, roads and social services.

The moves were blocked by a High Court ruling before the bill revoked them.

A minister told the Commons the plans were rushed through. Exeter's Labour MP said it was "political spite".

The bill cleared the Commons with an unopposed third reading and now goes for Royal Assent.

'Bloodbath' predicted

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles had said the plans would have cost £40m in local government reorganisation.

Local Government Minister Bob Neill told the Commons on Thursday the plans had been rushed through in an "act of partisan manoeuvring" by Labour.

Labour former cabinet minister and Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw predicted an electoral "bloodbath" for Tories and Lib Dems at future council elections.

In Exeter, local elections in September resulted in Labour regaining the council, Mr Bradshaw said.

"I predict a similar bloodbath for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Norwich when the voters of Norwich have an opportunity to use their democratic right."

He added: "The only possible reason they can be doing this is an act of political spite."

The system of unitary authorities, introduced by the Labour government in the late 1990s, sees areas governed by one local body, rather than responsibilities being shared by a district or borough council and a county council.

In Devon, both Plymouth and Torbay are unitary authorities.

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