Council shake-up 'a monstrosity'

PLANS for a massive shake-up which would see Suffolk split into two unitary authorities have today been branded a “monstrosity” by furious council bosses.

PLANS for a massive shake-up which would see Suffolk split into two unitary authorities have today been branded a “monstrosity” by furious council bosses.

A Greater Ipswich authority, provisionally named North Haven, will include Ipswich, Felixstowe, the Shotley and Deben peninsulas, and parishes around Great Blakenham.

It means that the authority will be Suffolk's powerhouse, encompassing the Ipswich and Felixstowe docks, BT Research at Martlesham, and the SnOasis leisure complex.

Lowestoft is to be joined with the whole of Norfolk, crushing Norwich city council's bid to become its unitary council.

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St Edmundsbury had hoped to be the centre of a West Suffolk unitary, but now it looks as if it will be home to a much bigger Suffolk rural unitary

Suffolk rural will take in Forest Heath, St Edmundsbury, parts of Babergh and Waveney, and most of Mid Suffolk and Suffolk Coastal.

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Mark Ereira-Guyer, Labour group leader on St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “They've come up with something that is quite frankly a monstrosity.

“Say I'm a councillor in Bury St Edmunds, for example, I could actually be deciding planning issues in Southwold or Aldeburgh - and that is absurd.

“It is not just disappointing, it is absolutely anathema to local government. This is off the Richter scale.

“I think they have not listened one iota to anything anybody has been saying to them. It is unspeakably bad, it is barking mad.”

St Edmundsbury Borough Council leader John Griffiths, said: “We are extremely surprised by this recommendation which if implemented, would seem to ignore the feelings of our local residents and does not present a solution for West Suffolk.

“This recommendation appears to take no account of people's sense of place in their own community. We have always argued for local people making local decisions.

“That is something we still believe in and we shall be discussing how we can achieve what's 'best for the west' in the coming weeks.”

The proposed reorganisation was described as a “farcical” situation by an irate Ray Herring, leader of Suffolk Coastal District Council.

Mr Herring said: “This is a farcical situation whereby the BCE have ignored the solutions offered to them and are instead looking to impose something which has no understanding of the communities of Suffolk.

“In a very short time period, a range of interesting proposals for the future were offered, yet the BCE have come up with a solution for Ipswich based on a couple of maverick proposals and paired it with an option that nobody requested, with an alternative that again nobody wanted.

“This was a golden opportunity to provide better, more efficient services that engaged with and served local communities, but it has been squandered with a carve-up that has butchered our county and our districts.''

Mr Herring added: “Putting aside the annexation of Felixstowe, Kesgrave and 19 of our parishes for a moment, I find it impossible to fathom how the rest of Suffolk Coastal can best be served by becoming part of a massive council with 400,000 people.

“Looking at the criteria, I cannot see how creating one geographically massive new council will be locally accountable, while to date there has been absolutely no support for such a hare-brained idea.

“Our residents are used to receiving good, value for money services, and I honestly cannot see how creating one of the country's biggest councils will continue to deliver that success.”

And Forest Heath District Council leader Geoffrey Jaggard, said: “We are extremely disappointed by this recommendation which, if implemented, would ignore the feelings of our local residents, who consider that a West Suffolk Council, or status quo, would be better than this.

This does not appear to be a good solution for the people in West Suffolk or for local democracy.

“We believe that a large unitary council, covering Forest Heath, St Edmundsbury, Babergh, Mid Suffolk and parts of Waveney and Suffolk Coastal, would be cumbersome and remote from people and places which is why we argued for smaller scale unitary councils, or status quo. We believe it is important for councils to be able to focus on all the different issues and identities.”

But county council leader Jeremy Pembroke and Mid Suffolk leader Tim Passmore said they were “delighted” that their preferred One Suffolk option was still alive.

“It is supported by the health authority, leading business people, and most of the parish councils.

“It would be the cheapest option to introduce and bring in savings of £100 a household. We will be doing further work on the project and will be asking the people of Suffolk to support just one council.”

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