Councils' shake-up still on course

LOCAL government reorganisation in Suffolk is still on for April 2010, despite a delay in considering the financial implications of scrapping the county and seven district councils.

Graham Dines

LOCAL government reorganisation in Suffolk is still on for April 2010, despite a delay in considering the financial implications of scrapping the county and seven district councils.

The Secretary of State Hazel Blears is on course to make a decision on the shake-up by March 27 next year, setting in motion the year-long process needed to wind-up the existing councils and replacing them with all-purpose unitary authorities.

The six-week delay has been forced by a judicial review, which ruled not enough time had been allowed to consider the financial ramifications of alternative proposals to the Boundary Committee's favoured option of a single Norfolk county unitary including Lowestoft.


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Councils in Norfolk have suggested a Norwich-Great-Yarmouth-Lowestoft unitary with the rest of the county administered by a single rural authority.

The Norfolk delay has affected the reviews in Suffolk and Devon, with the Secretary of State keen to announce her decisions for the three counties on the same.

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The Boundary Committee - which has proposed an Ipswich-Felixstowe unitary and a Suffolk rural council with a One Suffolk counter proposal from Suffolk county council - has until February 13 to complete its report on the financial viability of its plans for the three counties.

Ms Blears will announce her decision on or before March 27 and she has until April 23 to lay parliamentary orders cancelling next year's county council elections, due to take place on June , the same day as voting to choose Britain's Euro MPs.

If the Electoral Commission is required to redraw the boundaries of local government wards to take account of the new structure, elections to any new authorities could be delayed until October 2010, six months after they are up and running.

Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk county council, admits the delay has caused confusion among existing councils and the public.

“However, I see no reason why the Secretary of State's timetable will be affected because of the judicial review,” said Mr Pembroke. “In the mean time, we will continue to deliver first-class services and whatever the final outcome of the process, we will make sure it works to the benefit of the whole of the county.”

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