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Councils ease fears over further travel to meetings following Waveney and Suffolk Coastal merger

PUBLISHED: 17:37 02 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:37 02 May 2018

The Riverside building in Lowestoft where Waveney District Council is based. 

Picture: JAMES BASS

The Riverside building in Lowestoft where Waveney District Council is based. Picture: JAMES BASS

Archant Norfolk © 2015

Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils have eased fears that a merger will mean residents have to travel further for meetings.

The two councils have been working to unite as East Suffolk Council for 2019, with the move making it the biggest district council in the country by population.

On Monday, the two councils held their first ever simultaneous council meeting in Hinton, where proposed ward boundary changes were approved after all but one councillor – Martlesham’s John Kelso – voted in favour of the changes.

It means the number of seats will reduce from 90 to 55 and will save around £200,000 per year.

Some uncertainty remained over whether it would mean people would have to travel further if they wanted to make representations for meetings such as planning committees, but the councils have moved to allay those concerns.

A spokesman from the councils said: “All of the ideas for the new layout came from a variety of sources, and most ideas for different areas were instigated by the representatives from those areas themselves.”

The spokesman said it would “lose the bureaucracy and get the level of representation right”.

He added: “The vast majority of council business will still be in local patches because they are local matters – it’s only really full council and cabinet where there is a wider representation.”

The council said that the shake-up was not designed to mean that decisions on specific areas which did not have wider significance would be debated by those with fewer links to the area, for example Kesgrave matters being decided in Lowestoft.

The changes mean that councillors will represent around 2,600 voters compared to the 2,100 average currently seen.

Suffolk Coastal currently has 42 councillors across 26 wards, while Waveney has 48 councillors in 23 wards. The new layout would feature 55 councillors in 29 wards.

The council spokesman added: “It’s about everyone coming together creating new ward boundaries. We will now submit this to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Boundary Commission and put a version out for this June or July.”

Members of the public will still be able to share their views once the draft has been formulated.

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