Typical Labour Government - they can't even announce a decision without making a ham fist of it. Let me tell you the story of Unitary.
As regular readers will no doubt remember the story goes something like this.
Norwich Labour decide they want Unitary because they thought that those horrible Tories (you know, the ones who run the excellent four-star County Council) ignored Norwich and their out-of-touch cabinet members who know little about the City (you know, the ones who represent faraway places like Cringleford or live in Eaton) shouldn't be allowed to spread practice (you know, the acclaimed service provision) to Norwich (you know, the council with the zero-star Housing Department). So they applied for unitary status.
Unfortunately the then-Labour Secretary of State said that the plans were unaffordable, so they put in 2 bids (against the rules at the time I think) which contained plans for a small unitary based on existing boundaries and an enlarged unitary based upon taking in surrounding villages. Labour Ministers never killed this off...
Then people in South Norfolk and Broadland went bananas at the thought of this and protested against the plans. Still the then-Labour Secretary of State thought it was a bad idea.
Then the County Council launched their own bid for one large Unitary based upon the whole of Norfolk, which upset an awful lot of people including the district councils.
So given the County bid met the 5 criteria set down by the government but the City bid didn't, the then-Labour Secretary of State sent the decision off to the Independent Boundary Commission for a decision. Still Labour Ministers didn't kill this off...
The Independent Boundary Commission worked very hard and fought off various legal challenges and the whole thing dragged on-and-on whilst taxpayers continued to foot the bills.
Then the Independent Boundary Commission stunned everyone by saying only the Norfolk Unitary met all the criteria and that the Norwich bid was risky, unaffordable, poor value for money and the government should avoid it at all costs.
So the decision goes off to the Labour Secretary of State for a decision. Should he go with the County Unitary, scrap the whole thing (despite telling everyone status quo wasn't an option all along) or do something else?
You got it - do something else.
So a written statement was sent out and the Secretary of State avoided questions in the Commons because his decision was to implement the original City Council bid (you know, the one which the Independent Boundary Commission warned against as did two former Labour Secretaries of State).
And now - thanks to the Guardian for the story - it turns out the Civil Servants are so worried about the decision backfiring that they asked the Secretary of State to "order" them to do this and thus clearing them of responsibility.
And how does the Secretary of State justify this? By changing the goal posts and applying some very muddled thinking to this. So still Labour don't kill it ...
If you think I'm being partisan about this, think again - this decision sees me unable to stand for council and will have to give up my seat and does nothing to help the Tory position (an extended boundary unitary would have, for example). The position I have taken has always been in the best interest of the City (and taxpayers) of Norwich
If you think I'm being flippant, you're right, I am. Only because like a lot of people I want this whole thing sorted one way or another. And given the potential hold ups in the Commons and the Lords, and the Conservative pledge to overturn this in office, could the whole game be for nothing? This has dragged on too long and cost too much - for all councils and all council tax payers.
Unitary has been cursed since the day that Labour, and their LibDem / Green poodle allies, popped corks on the steps of City Hall. So where has this announcement leave us? Not much further forward I'd say; still in the air.
UPDATE: LibDems are pretty much at war over this now - Norman Lamb was uncompromising in his attack on the plans in the EDP today and tonight Brian Watkins, City LibDem Leader, told me he still passionately backed the bid. Words from LibDem circles is that of daggers drawn.