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Secretary of state supports plans for west Suffolk councils merger

Secretary of state Sajid Javid has backed proposals for a merger of Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough Councils. 
Picture: SIMON FINLAY

Secretary of state Sajid Javid has backed proposals for a merger of Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough Councils. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

Plans for a council merger in west Suffolk have taken a significant step forward after the secretary of state announced his support for proposals.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid announced that he is minded to implement the plans to merge Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough Council into a single authority.

The minister said he reached his decision on the basis of the business plan for the merger which showed the new council would better help support services, provide greater value for money and enable stronger leadership.

He also highlighted the strong local support which had been shown for the proposals and said the merger made sense due to the shared geography of the councils.

The new single authority would replace both current councils, which would generate around £800,000 in savings and efficiencies, according to the councils.

Both councils agreed to send the business case to government for consideration and a legal order be drawn up ready to make the change with elections in 2019.

Councillor John Griffiths, St Edmundsbury Borough Council leader, said: “This is great news. It reflects the compelling argument we made and the general support there is for a new council that puts us in a better position to meet the aspirations of our communities.

“We have listened to local residents and organisations who agree lines on a map or council structures should not get in the way of providing services or hamper us from seizing opportunities for continued investment in our communities.

“The case for creating a new single council was compelling and once again puts us at the forefront of transforming how local government works to benefit directly the people we serve.

“Not only can we continue to deliver high quality services but we can better champion our area, drive the local economy, jobs and prosperity in west Suffolk while tackling the challenges facing all public services.

Councillor James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council, said: “We welcome the secretary of state’s announcement that he is minded to implement our proposals to further drive prosperity and better support our communities.

“The speed at which the secretary of state has made his announcement is a clear indication of the strength of our case and the recognition of the part we play now and in the future in helping drive the economy.

“Doing what is right for our communities is at the heart of what we do. The benefits to our residents is clear and there is strong support from local people, businesses and local organisations.

“Staying still is not an option if we are to meet future challenges and better champion our communities, both locally and nationally, as well as continuing to deliver high quality services.

“This means we are not only in a better position to have a louder voice but a real opportunity to find even more effective ways to work more closely and support our local organisations and residents. I look forward to helping create this new single council.”

The Harvest Centre, home of Brandon Full Gospel Church, held its Christmas meal on Saturday evening and this year invited people who had made a difference in the community.

Snow-lovers in Suffolk and Essex took full advantage of today’s weather by getting outside to enjoy the white stuff despite plummeting temperatures.

A woman arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs has been released under investigation.

Kesgrave High School will be closed tomorrow after a major power failure.

A woman was raped in a car in Lowestoft yesterday in what police have described as a “despicable attack”.

Ipswich Town Hall will be 150 years old in January. John Norman looks at its story – one rarely dull.

Headteachers face an “impossible” task of deciding whether to close their school due to snow and fear looking “foolish” later in the day if forecasts prove to be inaccurate, education leaders say.

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