‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’: Leaders clash on plans for Lynn town council

West Norfolk’s Conservative leader has called for clarity on what he feels are “very concerning” plans to create a Lynn town council.

Terry Parish, the leader of West Norfolk Council, discussed proposals for the creation of an independent ruling body in the town with the Lynn News last week.

He has now been forced to make clear that this “is not a done deal and will take time to consider” after his predecessor, Cllr Stuart Dark, voiced worries about the logistics of the idea.

Cllr Dark, who led the borough council as its Tory leader until the Independent-led administration took control earlier this year, described the possibility of creating a council in Lynn as “alarming” and “perplexing”.

He says he is particularly concerned after having it confirmed in writing that Cllr Parish has held “no detailed discussion” with the council’s chief executive, chief financial officer or monitoring officer.

However, Cllr Parish says these figures are “well aware” of his plans, which could be kick-started by the end of this council year in the spring.

Cllr Dark said: “There is a fragile balance that needs to be maintained and refreshed regularly to ensure both Lynn and West Norfolk benefit properly from this long-standing relationship.

“It’s true that sometimes that balance isn’t quite right, such as when funding levels or how they are controlled and dispersed grate a bit, but those can all and should all be easily worked through within the existing model.

“To go far further and publicly embark on such a major change process away from a long-established and on the whole, fully-functioning legal framework, to create an entirely new model with all this associated preparatory cost, work and future impact uncertainty for seemingly the sake of a ‘new name’ and in pursuit of a ‘governance model’ ideal is simply, in my opinion, unjustifiable.

“This seems even more so when you consider there has been no real public clamour for this change to occur and the very bad timing of it, when we are all emerging from a pandemic and residents, businesses and the borough council alike are still under real economic pressure.”

Any decision on whether Lynn ends up with its own town council would have to be subject to a referendum.

Cllr Parish previously said he believes it would benefit residents as they would be able to have more input on decision-making in the town.

He likened the idea to the future devolution deal in Norfolk, “shifting control, including some financial, from Government to a local body”.

Responding to Cllr Dark’s comments, he said: “A town council for Lynn is not a done deal and will take time to consider. I have stated that consideration will be given during the second and third year of this administration.

“Such consideration will start fairly slowly and the cases for and against a town council will be gathered. These will be honestly put to the people as they emerge and, no doubt, an appetite for going forward will be tested in the press.

“Consequently, whether the expense of a referendum will be needed could be largely determined before we get that far.

“This would be an exercise in asking people what they want. They have not had the chance to consider it before. I have no firm position on this, and will await appropriate reports.”

Cllr Dark’s concerns for a Lynn town council include a potential increase in costs for residents through an additional precept, ramifications for the Lynn and West Norfolk mayor role, and the money it would cost to hold referendums and pay for legal fees.

He also questioned who would own Lynn’s town hall, the King’s Lynn Town FC ground and public spaces in the future – and queried the “significant costs” in re-branding council websites, bins and signs.

He added: “There is a well-known saying ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ which I believe applies here. I do hope that Cllr Parish and the new administration take early heed of this.”