Minister’s praise for co-operative councils

SUFFOLK is leading the way when it comes to councils sharing services – and the government wants to see more authorities following the county’s example.

That was the message from local government minister Brandon Lewis during a visit to authorities in the county yesterday. He met senior councillors from Mid Suffolk and Babergh councils who share chief executive Charlie Adan and a single administration during an hour-long meeting at the Suffolk Food Hall at Wherstead.

Mr Lewis, who is also MP for Great Yarmouth just across the county boundary, said councils across the country – including Norfolk – could learn much from the Suffolk experience. He said: “Here you have six district or borough councils sharing three chief executives and many other officers.

“That is a much more efficient way of running things for smaller districts than for each to have their own structure and duplicating each other’s work.

“What we see in Suffolk is something that would be good to repeat across the country – in Norfolk there is only one shared chief executive.”

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Mr Lewis had a meeting with Mid Suffolk interim leader Derrick Haley and the chair of Babergh’s strategy committee Jennie Jenkins together with Ms Adan.

Ms Adan pointed out that while there were about 500 district and borough councils across the country, only about 40 of them shared a chief executive.

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Six of those are in Suffolk.

Mr Lewis went on to meet leading councillors and officials at the county before heading to Bury St Edmunds to see how Greene King is helping the community pub initiative.

And he defended the government over fears that councils were taking too much of a hit from the chancellor.

“Local government spends about 25% of public expenditure, so it is right that it should share the reduction to make it more efficient.

“The kind of changes we have seen in Suffolk are helping that to happen, and other parts of the country can learn lessons from here,” he said.

In yesterday’s EADT, chairman of Babergh District Council’s strategy committee Jennie Jenkins, Derrick Haley, interim leader of Mid Suffolk District Council and Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council wrote an open letter to the minister, outlining their councils’ commitment to working together to support local services.

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