'Historic moment' as West Suffolk Council merger is backed
PUBLISHED: 08:13 10 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:13 10 May 2018
Plans to create a new West Suffolk Council have been backed by both the House of Commons and the Lords in what has been hailed as a "historic moment".
The proposal to merge Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council into a single authority was the first of its kind to be agreed by the House of Commons.
The orders to create West Suffolk Council – which would replace Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury – are due to be signed later this month.
In his speech to the Lords yesterday, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth told the grand committee that the proposals had strong public support and praised the area.
Lord Tebbit, who is a west Suffolk resident, also spoke in the debate and praised the shared services and how the councils had already been working closely together.
In a joint statement, Carol Bull, St Edmundsbury borough councillor, and Ruth Bowman, Forest Heath district councillor, chairman and vice-chairman of the of the future governance steering group, said: “This is an historic moment not just for West Suffolk but the UK has a whole.
“We are at the forefront of transforming local government nationally and putting our residents at the heart of those changes.
“This is about making sure we can deliver better outcomes and drive economic, social and health benefits for our residents whilst investing in our businesses and local area.
“We welcome the support that both the House of Commons and Lords have given us and look forward to a bright future with the creation of a new West Suffolk Council.”
Support for the merger in the area was shown by a programme of engagement, which saw 70% of residents back the initiative in an independent poll.
Councillors say the new singular authority would better drive jobs, deliver services and continue investment to support local communities than the current arrangement.
In addition, the new council would generate around £800,000 in additional savings and efficiencies and help protect the £4million of annual savings already produced by sharing services, according to councillors.
Both councils have also been making a strong case to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England to make sure strong representation of local communities is maintained.