Contact numbers, planning permission and allotments – everything you need to know about the new East Suffolk Council
From bin collections to leisure centre fees, the new East Suffolk Council will oversee services in coastal communities from April. Local Democracy Reporter Jason Noble finds out what changes you need to know
Having steered the ship of council business in the east of the county since 1974, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils will cease to be from April 1.
Instead, the new East Suffolk Council will take the helm for district matters – planning permissions, housing, waste collection, leisure centres and parking permits to name a few.
And while work has been underway for well over a year to prepare for the transition, there are some changes homes in the east will need to know.
We put some questions to the new council to find out what you need to know about the practical changes.
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Will the council still have a base each in Lowestoft and Melton?
“Yes. There will be no single headquarters,” a spokesman for the new council said.
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Where will each committee be held? Will they alternate between Melton and Lowestoft? Is there a risk those who live in Kesgrave may have to travel to Lowestoft for a planning committee for instance?
“Full council and cabinet meetings will move around the new district, but local decision-making committees such as planning and licensing will be heard in specific locations relevant to the applications.”
Will the new council be carrying out any additional responsibilities that Waveney or Suffolk Coastal may not have done before?
“No. All services that are currently carried out will continue, and Suffolk remains a two-tier county for local authorities.”
Will charges for things such as garden waste collection or planning fees be the same under the new council? Will any charges be different depending on where in the district you live?
“All charges will be aligned – many already are, such as council tax. Meetings of the shadow council over the last year have been aligning charges between the two districts.”
Will people have to travel further to a polling station to vote?
“No. Polling station locations are based on the population or electorate.”
Is the first point of contact for advice still their local office in Melton or Lowestoft? Will any contact numbers change?
“The first point of contact is our new non-geographic phone number 03330 162 000.
“All calls will be charged at a local rate no matter where it is made from.
“We already have long-established customer contact centres in Lowestoft, Woodbridge and other markets towns and that won’t change.
“Specific department numbers are not changing either and we have had a single website and social media accounts for some time now.”
Will staff at either council be redeployed, have to change where they work, or will there be any redundancies?
“The councils have utilised a single joint workforce for many years now and the formal merger will not affect anyone.”
Will there be any changes in the way people get in contact with council departments or councillors?
“As above, specific department numbers are not changing and we have had a single website and social media accounts for some time now.
“When councillors are elected to the new council, they will all have a new East Suffolk address and their details will be posted on our website as usual.”
Will there be any changes to the way rubbish is collected, changes to collection days or more infrequent collections?
“No changes are planned to rubbish collections.”
Will there be any changes to the process of paying council tax?
“Council tax charges for the year ahead have already been agreed, and the process of paying council tax will not change.”
Will the process of applying for planning permission change, or the way planning approval is decided or issued?
“No. Planning committees will still be held and no changes to the process, fees or decision making of planning permission are being made.”
Will homeless provision change?
“No changes to homeless provision are being planned.”
Will the process of applying for an allotment change?
“No. Current means for finding out about, and applying for, allotments will continue.”
Will there be any changes to the way play parks and open spaces are maintained?
“No, maintenance and management of play parks and open space will continue as they have.”
Will fees or facilities change at the council’s leisure centres?
“No. Customers can still enjoy the same facilities at the same fees as they have been this year.”
How much in savings will the new council generate compared to running Waveney and Suffolk Coastal?
“We have already saved over £22million working in partnership and the merger is expected to generate another £1.3m per year in savings.”
Is the new council expected to generate more in the way of travel expenses for councillors and council officers travelling to meetings, and if so how much?
“This is not easy to quantify, however we do not expect expenses overall to increase.
Since the partnership began, and technology improved, more of our meetings are being held by video conference.
“Unnecessary travel, where technology can support, is discouraged.
“As explained above, there will still be local committee meetings and there will only be travel, and other, expenses for 55 councillors instead of 90.”