Districts reject Suffolk county unitary
SUFFOLK'S four largest district councils have combined to support the creation of three unitary authorities for the county.Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal, St Edmundsbury and Waveney also reject a cross-border authority merging Lowestoft with Great Yarmouth and have called for unitaries based on Ipswich, East Suffolk and West Suffolk.
SUFFOLK'S four largest district councils have combined to support the creation of three unitary authorities for the county.
Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal, St Edmundsbury and Waveney also reject a cross-border authority merging Lowestoft with Great Yarmouth and have called for unitaries based on Ipswich, East Suffolk and West Suffolk.
With Forest Heath and Babergh having already supported a single council for West Suffolk, only Mid Suffolk of the county's seven district has sided with the county council, which wants one giant unitary to serve the whole of Suffolk.
The Boundary Committee has finished taking evidence on the reorganisation of local government ordered by the Government and in June will publish “concepts” which can be worked up as a recommendation to Communities Secretary Hazel Blears by the end of the year.
In a joint statement, the four council leaders - Ray Herring (Suffolk Coastal), Liz Harsant (Ipswich), John Griffiths (St Edmundsbury) and Mark Bee (Waveney) - rejected the single council option proposed by the county council.
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They said: “Three unitary authorities should be structured to achieve a balance between urban and rural areas and reflect the huge diversity in physical and human geography in Suffolk.
“One giant council covering the whole of Suffolk cannot achieve this aim and is therefore not in the interests of our residents, nor indeed the businesses which that drive our different local economies.”
Adding that council taxpayers had the right to have their money spent locally, they say: “The creation of three local authorities that reflect the distinctive identities and economies of Suffolk would provide the necessary local focus so important to the people of the county.”
Late last year, the Government rejected the Ipswich bid for a unitary and asked the Boundary Committee for England to come up with options for a restructure of the county council and seven district authorities on “unitary solutions.”
Although the four leaders have not defined what the boundaries should be, some extension of Ipswich seems certain because of the need to increase the council tax base, one of the reasons behind last year's ministerial rejection of an Ipswich unitary.
County council leader Jeremy Pembroke has put a brave face on the joint statement, even though it comes as a blow to Conservative Party unity in the county. “We always knew there would come a point when we would have to agree to disagree.
“I firmly believe that the biggest payback for the council tax payer and the people of Suffolk is a single unitary authority. We will be leaving the new structure an infrastructure that has been deemed as 'excellent' - why fragment it? We believe fundamentally in the concept of One Suffolk, not several Suffolks.”