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Consultation launched over civic leadership in west Suffolk

Leader of Forest Heath District Council James Waters (left) with St Edmundsbury Borough Council leader John Griffiths. Picture: ST EDMUNDSBURY BOROUGH COUNCIL

Leader of Forest Heath District Council James Waters (left) with St Edmundsbury Borough Council leader John Griffiths. Picture: ST EDMUNDSBURY BOROUGH COUNCIL

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Residents are being urged to voice their “strong views” on the subject of civic leadership for the new West Suffolk Council.

Margaret Marks
 is the last mayor of St Edmundsbury Picture: ANDY ABBOTTMargaret Marks is the last mayor of St Edmundsbury Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

The merger between St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council into a singular authority raised concerns among residents over the loss of borough status and mayoral title.

Borough status has to be awarded, it cannot be transferred from one to another and both councils made sure the government agreed that the new authority has the power to apply.

Residents are now being asked whether the new singular council should apply to the Privy Council for borough status for the new west Suffolk area.

If borough status is successfully applied for, the council also wants to hear residents’ views on whether they want a mayor or council chairman as civic figurehead.

The new council will be created in April 2019, with new wards, and a reduction in councillors from 72 to 64. Elections will take place in May next year.

All councils must have a civic leader, traditionally called a chairman, but for those authorities who have borough status – this role can be called a mayor should it choose to do so.

Therefore, if West Suffolk Council successfully applied for borough status, it could have either a mayor or chairman as its civic figurehead.

Forest Heath district councillor Ruth Bowman and St Edmundsbury borough councillor Carol Bull, portfolio holders for future governance, said: “The new council is designed to better promote our great area, attract investment and further drive prosperity for the communities we serve.

“Civic leadership will play an important role in helping achieve those ambitions. Creating a new council for west Suffolk gives our communities an exciting opportunity to help shape how it works, given the council will be a new organisation, covering a larger area.

“As part of this, we are looking to redefine at the role of the civic leader for the new council.

“This is an important figurehead who not only chairs council meetings but is a representative of the area at important events, championing our communities and businesses.

“We already know people have strong views about this subject and we now want them to tell us through this consultation and engagement process all of those views to help us shape civic leadership in west Suffolk.”

People are able to have their say up to September 2 and can answer questions online at www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/civicleadership

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