‘Fight back against the bureaucrats’ – calls to stop the erosion of democracy in Suffolk

Endeavour House, headquarters of Suffolk County Council. Picture: ARCHANT

Endeavour House, headquarters of Suffolk County Council. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Suffolk communities are rallying against “bureaucrats” they say are eroding democracy.

Town councillors are said to be “frustrated” by Suffolk County Council’s alleged attempts to remove their power and influence.

Framlingham Town Council’s Jo Simpson called on colleagues to “fight back” on matters ranging from housing decisions to reporting of highways problems.

Mr Simpson, who became a councillor recently, said he found it the county council’s behaviour “very worrying”.

He highlighted changes which meant town clerks could no longer raise issues directly with highways officers and had to use the public reporting website.

“We have little enough power as it is,” he said. “We have to push back. This is not determined democratically, it’s some jobsworth who’s decided his job would be easier if the only access is through the website. Democracy is being eroded by bureaucrats.”

Mr Simpson also highlighted controversial decisions on housing applications that went against the town council’s recommendation – though it was pointed out these often came from the Planning Inspectorate rather than Suffolk authorities.

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Even simple roads projects were made difficult because of added costs, he said. “If we want yellow lines [on roads] we have to pay thousands of pounds to Suffolk County Council before they even consider it,” he said.

Fellow councillors said they shared Mr Simpson’s frustration.

Vice chairman Simon Garrett said the council “should not take these things lying down” while John Jones added: “We should start challenging the decision that other people make on our behalf.”

Town clerk Eileen Coe said the frustrations were also felt in Woodbridge, Leiston and Saxmundham town councils.

Mr Simpson suggested joining with councils and lobbying for change. “We have to start fighting back against it,” he said. “The laws can only be changed but they can only be changed if we push back against the bureaucrats.

“If a decision is better made locally, it should be make locally.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said town councils could discuss concerns about highways reporting with their county councillor. “The key driver behind these changes is to maintain and improve Suffolk’s highways as effectively as possible and, through smarter ways of working, savings can be realised.”

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