Suffolk's solo bid gets mixed response

A PROPOSAL to replace the county council and seven districts with a single unitary authority in Suffolk has been backed by one of the small rural councils which would be axed and received a guarded welcome from another.

Graham Dines

A PROPOSAL to replace the county council and seven districts with a single unitary authority in Suffolk has been backed by one of the small rural councils which would be axed and received a guarded welcome from another.

Mid-Suffolk has agreed to support the plans, which would create Britain's third largest unitary authority with the potential to save council taxpayers millions of pounds a year by ending duplication and slimming down bureaucracy.

But Babergh said yesterday that a single unitary was its second preference, behind the creation of separate east and west unitaries.

The plans for One Suffolk will this week be sent to the Boundary Committee for England, which has been asked by the Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears to work up “unitary solutions” to overhaul how the county is administered.

Although the proposals run contrary to the Government aim of giving urban centres such as Ipswich their own unitary councils, Mid Suffolk's chief executive Andrew Good said it was “vital that Suffolk and its people have one single strong voice and that this is championed through strong leadership and very local delivery arrangements.”

Most Read

“We believe that one authority will bring the powerful and radical empowerment that our local neighbourhoods need and allow their voice to be heard wherever they are in the county,” he said. “There are a number of issues that affect and shape our communities that need the strong presence, overview and leadership that a single body would bring.”

The concept of One Suffolk has been drawn up by the county council in response to the boundary review ordered by ministers late last year after they rejected bids by Ipswich to become a unitary and Suffolk and the other six districts to work together in a pathfinder partnership.

County leader Jeremy Pembroke yesterday welcomed Mid Suffolk's support. “I am under no illusion that within two years, Suffolk County Council will no longer exist. It will be replaced by a unitary system and I believe that the most cost effective way to deliver that would be the creation of just one authority for the whole of Suffolk.

“It would save fragmentation. Transitional costs would be zero. A Suffolk unitary would be sustainable and would serve the people of the whole of the county - and the vast majority do not care who provides their services as long as they are efficient and reliable.”

The Boundary Committee will consider six other unitary options for Suffolk, including Greater Ipswich, separate East and West Suffolk unitaries, the creation of a council covering all or parts of Waveney and Great Yarmouth, or any combination.

Forest Heath and Babergh district councils this week voted in favour of a West Suffolk unitary. The chairman of Babergh's strategy committee Nick Ridley said the option for a two-unitary county based on unitary councils for the east and west of Suffolk was the first preference.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter