What does unitary mean for Suffolk Coastal and Waveney’s ‘super’ district council merger?

Suffolk Coastal leader Ray Herring, left, with secretary of state for communities and local governme

Suffolk Coastal leader Ray Herring, left, with secretary of state for communities and local government Sajid Javid and Waveney leader Mark Bee at a meeting to discuss the East Suffolk councils' merger. Picture: SUFFOLK COASTAL DISTRICT COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

Leaders behind east Suffolk council merger plans have insisted the project will go ahead - despite concerns it could be superseded by unitary status.

At least 15 Suffolk Coastal councillors are claimed to have backed unitary, which would see a single council running services, after the commissioning of a new report to investigate the options.

One of the councillors, Christopher Hudson, claims several have written to the Government, advocating unitary and urging it to pause the merger of Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils. Mr Hudson, who represents Framlingham at the district council and is county councillor for Belstead Brook, claims the merger would be a waste of time and money if unitary goes ahead.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils have already agreed to pause their merger in response to the debate on unitary.

Mr Hudson said he welcomed that approach. “There are at least 15 district councillors in Suffolk Coastal who also think unitary is a good idea,” he added. “Several colleagues have written to [local government secretary] Sajid Javid MP urging him to put the pause button on the merger, until the unitary matter is settled.”.

The unitary debate escalated after Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble commissioned a report by ResPublica to investigate. Unitary is seen as a way of saving money for the cash-strapped local government sector – however it has faced opposition from district councils.

Last week Suffolk’s district and borough council leaders sent a joint letter to SCC calling for a stop to the £70,000 ResPublica review and to work together on other money saving proposals.

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Suffolk Coastal and Waveney leaders, Ray Herring and Mark Bee, have also responded to the Mr Hudson’s latest suggestion.

In a statement, they said the councils’ decade-long partnership had already made £22.5 million savings and the new East Suffolk “super district council” was the next “logical step”.

“To suggest that we would abandon these plans at the eleventh hour, when they have government backing and widespread support across our communities, is frankly ludicrous,” they added

The leaders said anyone seeking to stop the merger less than a year from its completion is “very ill-informed about the hard work and preparation that has gone into getting to this point”.