Unitary debate: Jeremy Pembroke
QUESTION: What do you want from your local council? Lots of things probably, from prompt refuse collections to a good school for your children and high-quality care for elderly relatives.
A QUESTION: What do you want from your local council?
Lots of things probably, from prompt refuse collections to a good school for your children and high-quality care for elderly relatives.
Whatever the detail, the common denominator is: excellent services. And at a price you can afford.
Most will also want local government to live up to its name, and be local - close to the people and responsive to their needs.
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I believe very strongly that a single unitary Suffolk council offers the best chance of meeting these needs.
Why? Because it is cheapest, easiest and closest.
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It is cheapest because one council, rather than the current eight, would bring huge savings, equivalent to about £100 per household.
It would also be easiest, as key, strategic services, like education and adult care, are already run by one Suffolk-wide authority, achieving economies of scale, and allowing us to maximise increasingly-scarce resources. Key service providers such as charities and voluntary organisations would also find it much easier to work with one council than with two, helping to keep their costs down and focus more money on front-line services.
Crucially, it would also be closest. This is because, while the major, strategic decisions are taken centrally, new community boards would ensure decision-making and resources being guided by very local needs. Town and parish councils could also take on greater responsibilities.
So, a single Suffolk would lead to a new era of devolved decision-making.
In Suffolk, we have a county-wide infrastructure, rated as 4-star and excellent by the Audit Commission. It speaks for the whole of Suffolk and allows us to punch our weight and attract the resources which smaller authorities would struggle to do.
A Unitary Suffolk could inherit and build on this. It would save the most money, be the easiest to implement, and offer genuinely-local decision-making, without losing the economies of scale currently achieved at county level.
Whatever you want from your council, it'll most likely to be achieved by a single Suffolk Council.