Public to have a say on council shake-up
EVERY resident in Suffolk will be able to have their say on the biggest shake-up of public services in the county for decades, it has emerged.
Suffolk County Council chiefs, under intense scrutiny after revealing plans to divest services which they traditionally provide, announced the launch of a major online public consultation exercise yesterday.
It will initially ask people what concerns they have about the authority’s “New Strategic Direction” (NSD) and whether they understand it.
But it also goes on to ask a series of more detailed questions, including what volunteer work individuals carry out – at groups or clubs – and what “unpaid help” people may be prepared to take on in the future.
Under the council’s plans, many services will be handed over to charities, businesses and social enterprise groups. Libraries, highways services and children’s centres could be among the first offloaded next year.
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Jeremy Pembroke, Suffolk County Council leader, last night welcomed the consultation, saying: “Meaningful engagement with people and organisations will be essential as we take forward implementation of our NSD.
“I very much welcome publication of the strategy as an important step in the ongoing engagement process.”
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The announcement of the survey comes just days after the East Anglian Daily Times tabled a series of questions to the authority about important issues surrounding the shake-up. The county council indicated it will respond next week, and the answers will be published in this newspaper.
The council says its new document – called The New Strategic Direction Explained – will help engage individuals and organisations across Suffolk to “work through the crisis” generated by public spending cuts.
The paper intends to provide an explanation of why the council is moving towards a “new way of working”. Results of the linked online survey will be reported back to the council in December.
Shona Bendix, chief executive of Suffolk Association of Local Councils, said: “This is an important step towards proper engagement which we hope will be followed by a determined, focused and sophisticated conversation about the opportunities for services and assets to be transferred to town and parish councils so that communities can take rightful ownership.”
Chief executive of the Suffolk Association of Voluntary Organisations, Jonathan Moore, said: “It augurs very well that Suffolk County Council is willing to respond to concerns of voluntary groups and come up with positive opportunities to engage and contribute to what are ambitious plans.
“A two-way dialogue is essential, and one I know that organisations are ready for.”
The online survey and all documents relating to the New Strategic Direction are available on the council’s website at www.suffolk.gov.uk/newstrategicdirection.