Local government reshuffle delayed

AN ANNOUNCEMENT on the future structure of local government in Suffolk and Norfolk has been delayed by six weeks, it has been confirmed.

Russell Claydon

AN ANNOUNCEMENT on the future structure of local government in Suffolk and Norfolk has been delayed by six weeks, it has been confirmed.

The Government had requested the Boundary Committee for England (BCE) submit its recommendations for a unitary structure of councils in the county at the end of December, but it has now extended the date until February 13.

In July, the BCE said its preferred option for local government in Suffolk is to abolish the county and district councils, and instead create two new unitary councils.

One would cover the Ipswich and Felixstowe area and the other would look after the remaining area from as far as Newmarket in the west to Aldeburgh in the east. Lowestoft would be moved within Norfolk's administrative boundaries.

However, the latest delay comes after an alliance of Forest Heath, St Edmundsbury and Waveney councils criticised the time frame for not allowing the BCE to seriously consider a three unitary council option - West Suffolk, East Suffolk and Ipswich/Felixstowe.

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The Department for Communities and Local Government also cited a legal review brought by Breckland District Council in Norfolk about alleged failings to address affordability in its reasons for the extension.

In a joint statement, council leaders Geoffrey Jaggard (Forest Heath), John Griffiths (St Edmundsbury) and Mark Bee (Waveney) said it proved their belief the review had been rushed.

It said: “Our strongly-worded letter left the committee in no doubt that we are angry with the flawed processes of this review and that we will not stand idly by while decisions are taken which we believe are not in the best interests of this county.

“We have no doubt whatsoever that a three unitary structure would be the best way to deliver strong, effective and engaging local government and we now call on the BCE once more to meet with us, listen to our proposals and afford us the same consideration that has been given to the unwieldy and undemocratic giant Suffolk option.”

Nick Ridley, Babergh council's chairman of strategy committee, said the council was worried about the “needless uncertainty” the delay provided and the extra cost it would incur.

Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council, which is pushing for a single unitary authority covering the entire county, said: “A delay in the Boundary Committee recommendation simply means prolonged uncertainty for the people of Suffolk - let's just get it done.

“We have consistently maintained that a single unitary council would be the most efficient in delivering services and represent the best value for money for Suffolk council tax payers.”

A spokesman for the BCE confirmed it had received a letter from the Secretary of State allowing the extension.

She added: “It will enable the committee to receive any further representations for the affordability criteria.”

The new delay to the recommendations will mean the final decision on the future of local government in Suffolk will not be made until April at the earliest.

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