County bids to avoid ‘Big Bang’ approach
THE leader of Suffolk County Council has said there will be no “Big Bang” approach to plans to divest the authority’s services.
That was the pledge from Jeremy Pembroke as the radical programme for change was again endorsed by councillors yesterday.
The meeting of the full council in Ipswich debated the results of the first feedback after the county began a “community engagement” programme across Suffolk.
And Mr Pembroke insisted it was still too early in the divestment process to come up with any firm details of how services would be transferred to other providers.
However, he did make three pledges in an attempt to “dispel some of the myths”.
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He said: “Firstly, we are not about to privatise all our services. Our intention is to encourage a diverse range of mutuals, co-operatives, social enterprises, charities, community groups, town and parish councils, or – in some cases – Suffolk-based businesses.
“Secondly the council will not be reduced to 500 staff. As the details for divestment have only just started to be drawn up, there’s no way of knowing how many people will be leaving the organisation.
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“Thirdly, we are not simply hoping for volunteers to deliver our services for nothing.”
During his summing up at the end of the debate Mr Pembroke said divestment would be allowed to happen in its own way, at its own pace and insisted there was nothing ideological about the move.
He said: “There is no blueprint under the table, there is to be no ‘Big Bang’ approach to the changes.”
Deputy Liberal Democrat group leader David Wood said there was concern about the county’s New Strategic Direction (NSD) in communities because there was so little detail. He said: “We have been discussing this since September, 2009, but we still get the same old rhetoric. People need to get some straight answers to the questions they are asking.”
Labour group leader Sandy Martin dismissed the council’s own consultation processes and said the reaction on the streets was clear.
He said: “We know what people really think. 7,000 have signed petition forms for the Unison campaigns, for the Campaign for Public Services and on the Save Suffolk Services website.
“And if you haven’t concluded from these petitions, or from the 350 to 500 people who marched through the snow last Saturday, that the New Strategic Direction hasn’t found favour with the people of Suffolk then there are other consultation processes in May, 2011, and May, 2013 (local elections).”
At the end of the debate the council again backed the NSD proposals by 44 votes to 11 with one abstention. It also backed a call for regular reports to be brought back to council meetings.