West Suffolk Council merger to take next step as implementation plan to get approval

Councils in west Suffolk have warned of a homelessness increase Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Councils in west Suffolk have warned of a homelessness increase Picture: PHIL MORLEY - Credit: Archant

Plans to merge two councils in west Suffolk are set to take a big step forward next week as the implementation plan is signed off on Tuesday.

On May 24, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid approved plans for St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council to merge as West Suffolk Council in April 2019.

An implementation plan has now been formed which the shadow executive – a cabinet made up of members from both councils until the completed merger – will vote to adopt the plans on Tuesday.

The report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting said: “This marks the end of the approval phase, and it is now time to focus on the work required to bring the new council into being.

“The West Suffolk Shadow Authority is required to form an implementation plan, to outline how the functions and responsibilities of Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils will transfer to the West Suffolk Council on 1 April 2019.

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“In forming the implementation plan, focus has been maintained in two core areas – ensuring that the requirements in the business plan are respected, and that our residents, businesses and customers continue to receive the high level of public services that they would expect with minimal levels of disruption.”

The plan has outlined which areas are currently separate, and need to be brought together by April, including taxi licensing, parking fine appeals, play area inspections, street trading and treasury management.

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The report said that ongoing merger work since 2013 had already saved in excess of £4million, with the merged authority delivering annual savings of around £850,000.

An independent poll found 70% of residents backed the merger.

It is hoped that as well as the savings the joint merger would also drive jobs and deliver better investment in communities.

A joint statement issued following the approval in Westminster said: “We are at the forefront of transforming local government nationally and putting our residents at the heart of those changes.

“This is about making sure we can deliver better outcomes and drive economic, social and health benefits for our residents whilst investing in our local area.”

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