Minister hears Ipswich's freedom bid

IPSWICH has ratcheted up its bid for independence from Suffolk with a cross-party delegation of senior politicians from the borough presenting its case directly to a Government minister.

By Graham Dines

IPSWICH has ratcheted up its bid for independence from Suffolk with a cross-party delegation of senior politicians from the borough presenting its case directly to a Government minister.

Councillors were joined by the town's MP Chris Mole as they argued for new powers to take over control of all local authority services in the town, including education, social care, libraries and consumer protection, all of which are currently provided by the county council.

They met local government minister Phil Woolas, who is expected to make the final decision on the bid by Ipswich and 15 other county and district authorities to become all purpose authorities.


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The Government invited all two-tier local authorities in England's shire counties to apply for unitary status. Nearly 30 took up the challenge and the final shortlist includes Ipswich, Norwich, Exeter and counties such as Cornwall, Durham, North Yorkshire, and Cheshire.

The Ipswich delegation comprised the Conservative leader of the council Liz Harsant, Liberal Democrat group leader Richard Atkins, Labour group leader David Ellesmere, the council's chief executive James Hehir, and Mr Mole, who is a former leader of the county council and one-time parliamentary private secretary to Mr Woolas.

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Mrs Harsant said: “We wanted to get away from the scare-mongering and distortions that have occurred recently. We are saddened by the extent of the county council mis-information campaign and are surprised by the amount of council tax-payers' money it seems to be spending trying to rubbish our campaign.

“We are determined to stick to the facts and that is what we told Mr Woolas.”

Mrs Harsant stressed that all political parties in the town supported the application and that Ipswich's financial case had been checked by two Government departments and by the Audit Commission and said the fact that a unitary council for Ipswich would cut waste and save money was central to the case.

Mr Mole said the delegation expressed the strength of feeling in Ipswich to have one council running the town instead of key functions being split between two authorities.

County council leader Jeremy Pembroke said: “It is important for the minister to hear all views.

“Mr Woolas has invited Suffolk to a meeting next month and we look forward to presenting our opposition at that time.”

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