'Split Suffolk in half', urges council

A SECOND council is poised to call for Suffolk to be split in half - with the east and west each having their own unitary authorities.

Laurence Cawley

A SECOND council is poised to call for Suffolk to be split in half - with the east and west each having their own unitary authorities.

The Boundary Committee for England was called in to review existing political structures in the wake of Ipswich's failed bid to become its own unitary authority.

At present, Suffolk has a single county tier - Suffolk County Council - and seven district or borough councils. But under the review a number of alternatives are likely to be considered including two single unitary authorities serving the west and east of the county.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council has already voiced its support for a west Suffolk unitary authority claiming it would be relatively simple to establish and more closely meet the needs of residents in each area.

Tomorrow Forest Heath District Council is expected to come out in favour of a single west Suffolk authority, and an extraordinary meeting of the full council has been arranged.

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In his report to the council, chief executive David Burnip said: “Analysis of the available concepts has led to the conclusion that the most beneficial option, in all senses looked for by the Government and the key criteria, would be the creation of two authorities for Suffolk - one in the east and another in the west; the so-called East/West model.

“This concept is believed to maximise opportunities for value for money, leadership and neighbourhood empowerment and still be affordable.”

He added: “The core concept of East/West is shared with St Edmundsbury in particular and work to develop a joint position is under way”.

“The East/West concept may well meet with the broad approval of the West Suffolk Local Strategic Partnership and the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership, since the concept will align with their existing structures, making the impact of partnership working more manageable and meaningful for them.”

Members of the council will be urged by Mr Burnip to back the East/West model as the “best case option”.

Babergh District Council is currently keeping its preferences close to its chest though, in a report for the council, chief executive Pat Rockall said: “Babergh's preliminary conclusions are that, with differing strengths and weaknesses against the five criteria, either a two unitary county based on an east/west split or a single unitary for the county as a whole is likely to produce the best overall balance of outcomes for the residents of Suffolk.

“This council would therefore ideally wish to see these two concepts being worked up in more detail for comparative analysis, with stakeholder consultation thereafter on either or both of these options as informed by that analysis.”

The matter will be discussed by councillors at an extraordinary meeting today.

Work by the Boundary Committee is expected to be finished in December 2008 and new authorities could be in place in 2010 or 2011.

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