Boost for Suffolk bid to keep Lowestoft

MILLIONS of pounds will be saved by keeping Lowestoft in Suffolk - rather than moving it within Norfolk's boundaries - in a massive shake-up of local government, a new report has revealed.

Graham Dines

MILLIONS of pounds will be saved by keeping Lowestoft in Suffolk - rather than moving it within Norfolk's boundaries - in a massive shake-up of local government, a new report has revealed.

The Boundary Committee for England (BCE) has published its conclusions on the financial strength of a series of proposals to replace the current county and district council set-up.

And while most of the key options have been declared cost effective, it has emerged keeping Lowestoft in Suffolk could offer the greatest savings - of up to £13.8m.


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Last night, officials on both sides of the unitary debate in Suffolk welcomed the news that their proposals had been declared financially viable.

During the summer, the BCE proposed Suffolk and Norfolk county councils and 15 district authorities should be swept away.

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They would be replaced with two unitary councils in Suffolk - Ipswich-Felixstowe (North Haven) and Suffolk Rural - while a Norfolk county would incorporate Lowestoft.

After public consultation, the BCE is currently refining its report before submitting it at the end of next month to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Hazel Blears.

The Government wants significant savings to be achieved by the reorganisation, and yesterday's BCE report says most of the options met that challenge - including the single unitary Suffolk authority plan, spearheaded by Suffolk County Council, and the North Haven plan, backed by Ipswich Borough Council.

Suffolk County Council leader Jeremy Pembroke said: “I am reassured that the financial case for a unitary Suffolk is sound.

“I happen to believe a single unitary authority is best placed to lead Suffolk into a bright and prosperous future.”

Liz Harsant, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said: “This is very good news indeed. Opponents have cast doubt on the strength of our financial case but this proves we are right.

“We always knew that a unitary Suffolk would stack up financially but now we can match that it means the argument will be judged on other matters and that is where we are very strong.

“We score highly on community engagement and local identity and we believe decisions should be made locally.

“We look forward to the final recommendations in December with renewed confidence.”

The report states how Norfolk County Council had indicated by retaining Lowestoft in Suffolk, there could be a net reduction in overall savings of between £2.3m and £2.6m.

However, it adds: “Suffolk, on the other hand, indicates that retaining Lowestoft in Suffolk will allow their submissions to make increased savings of between £10.6m and £13.8m.”

After studying the financial cases, the BCE says that on the basis of figures supplied by Suffolk County Council “there is a significant benefit arising from Lowestoft remaining in Suffolk.”

However, the final decision will not be based on solely on the financial benefits, it has stressed.

THE OPTIONS

n The BCE has proposed two unitary authorities in Suffolk - Ipswich-Felixstowe (North Haven) and a Suffolk Rural (excluding Lowestoft) for the rest of the county.

n It has suggested a single unitary council for Norfolk, but also including Lowestoft.

n Suffolk County Council has counter-proposed a “One Suffolk” plan for the whole of the county including Lowestoft.

n Ipswich Borough Council backs the North Haven plan, and strongly opposes the One Suffolk idea.

n Norwich has suggested a combined Norwich, Great Yarmouth, and Lowestoft council and a Norfolk Rural unitary.

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