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Taskforce launched to tackle rural issues in west Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 07:30 27 June 2019 | UPDATED: 08:39 27 June 2019

West Suffolk House (Council Offices) in Bury.

West Suffolk House (Council Offices) in Bury.

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A new taskforce has been launched to identify and tackle key issues affecting rural communities in west Suffolk such as access to services and transport.

John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council Picture: MARIAM GHAEMIJohn Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

West Suffolk Council approved plans to launch the new taskforce at a meeting on Tuesday, which will look at how best to ensure different issues facing rural communities and businesses are taken into account by the new authority.

Following the Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury merger earlier this year, west Suffolk is now the seventh largest non-metropolitan district in the country, serving a population of 179,248.

MORE: Historic first meeting of newly-formed West Suffolk Council

The council said that due to west Suffolk covering such a varied area - ranging from medium-sized towns to open countryside - it is important that differing circumstances of all its places are taken into account.

The West Suffolk Rural Taskforce will work to "help address barriers" to help rural areas outside the five main market towns of Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Mildenhall, Newmarket and Brandon achieve their potential.

The proposal report to councillors stated: "Research has shown that rural areas (in West Suffolk, this means the areas outside the five main market

towns) can fare less well than more urban areas in terms of: access to services (including health and social care), personal financial management,

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transport, access to affordable housing, integration with social networks, access to skills and training, and business infrastructure.

"Work is therefore needed to understand what the position on these issues is in west Suffolk and what measures might be put in place to help address barriers to all areas achieving their potential."

MORE: 'Great news' as government releases cash to connect Suffolk's remote rural businesses to superfast broadband

John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council, said: "I am delighted that cabinet swiftly and unanimously backed my proposal to set up a rural task force which is now being formally set up.

"Our aim as a council is to deliver excellent services, support and investment throughout West Suffolk to both ensure our future prosperity, and to preserve our environment and quality of life.

"The new council is well placed to achieve this across an area which has both rural and urban characteristics. Anybody who lives in a rural area knows the challenges faced by their communities but there are also opportunities to improve things further - especially if everyone works together to do so.

"The new taskforce will look at a range of evidence, issues and challenges and make suggestions on what we, and our partners, can do even better and how we can support residents and businesses in our rural areas even more."

It is expected that the cabinet will hear interim recommendations from the taskforce in September 2019 with a final report in November 2019.

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