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West Suffolk: Leaders will meet to discuss ‘shared ambition’ for services

PUBLISHED: 10:50 17 January 2014

West Suffolk House in Bury

West Suffolk House in Bury

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Work that has already delivered £3.5million savings continues next week when two councils meet for the first time to plan how they will deliver their shared ambitions.

Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough Council have recently completed a restructure to share services across West Suffolk. Now the overview and scrutiny committees of the two authorities are due to meet on 22 January to consider a West Suffolk strategic plan and medium term financial strategy for the next two years.

James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council said: “We have achieved an incredible amount by working together, but this is just the starting point as there are still huge financial challenges ahead. A single plan for West Suffolk does not mean a one-size-fits-all approach. Each council has its own unique identity and this joint plan allows for that individuality and doing things differently in different parts of West Suffolk while sharing broad priorities and ambitions. As Council Leaders, we are committed to making the most of the shared strength that acting together as West Suffolk gives us, at local, regional and national levels.”

John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council said the strategic plan suggests new ways of working, new relationships and three overarching priorities. He added: “Times are increasingly tough for local government but we need to continue to meet - and indeed anticipate - the challenges ahead and to become less dependent on funding from central Government. Councils must, and can, do things differently to help our communities become more self-reliant.”

The strategic plan will be discussed on 22 January by the combined Overview and Scrutiny Committees of the two councils, which will then meet separately to take the decision on recommending its adoption to their respective Cabinets. It will then inform the 2014/15 budget setting at the two authorities full Council meetings in February.

The strategic plan aims to support communities to create the best possible future for people in West Suffolk by working together. Its three overarching priorities are Increased opportunities for economic growth, Families and communities that are healthy and active, and Better homes for everyone.

The medium term financial strategy sets out the approach to sound management of the councils’ finances over the next two years.

Mr Griffiths said: “Both councils aspire to be ‘investing authorities’, supporting the strategic priorities and in particular, aiding economic growth across West Suffolk. We will be taking advantage of new forms of funding, new technologies and the new opportunities available.”

Mr Waters added: “The vision, priorities and projects set out in the Strategic Plan have shaped real choices on how increasingly scarce resources are allocated. We are confident that this prioritises essential services and represents a sound and prudent base for the medium term.”

The cost of redundancies following the restructuring of Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils to date is £1.6m. This is a one off cost starting with the chief executives and senior managers in 2012 /13 and now nearing completion.

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