Unitary debate: St Edmundsbury
By John GriffithsLeader, St Edmundsbury district councilWE did not ask for the local government review but will look constructively at any structure if it improves services and value for money while also giving a greater say to residents throughout Suffolk.
By John Griffiths
Leader, St Edmundsbury district council
WE did not ask for the local government review but will look constructively at any structure if it improves services and value for money while also giving a greater say to residents throughout Suffolk.
We are therefore fundamentally opposed to one giant, remote and less accountable unitary authority for the whole county.
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Smaller authorities, while big enough to take strategic decisions, could make similar savings on the current local government model (and to those being claimed for a giant unitary) while being much more accountable to their local residents. Equally important, they would be better at community engagement, and empowering their citizens.
They would be better at working with - and listening to - parishes and town councils, community groups, local partners, and businesses. And they would be more focused on making sure that local council tax is invested in local needs and priorities.
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Unitary government may well make sense but those of us who live and work in West Suffolk know what a unique identity this part of the county has, and understand its particular challenges, needs and opportunities. The same surely goes for the east of the county.
We therefore see merit in the Boundary Committee's preferred option of two authorities but, if Lowestoft were to remain in Suffolk (as we hope it does), we would also support an improvement to it with a West Suffolk unitary alongside locally-based unitaries in the east. We know there is huge support for precisely this from residents, local organisations and businesses alike throughout Suffolk.
Those lobbying for a giant unitary responsible for every council service say simply that it will be cheaper but do not mention quality (and cheapest isn't always best!). This may (or may not of course) be true but, more importantly, it would be neither as accessible and accountable nor as able to improve services and value for money for the residents we serve both in the west and the east of Suffolk.
Let's hope that the Government sees sense and makes sure the 'local' stays in local government.