Why having just one unitary council in Suffolk won’t work

The homes of Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council in Russell Road, Ipswich. Borough co

The homes of Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council in Russell Road, Ipswich. Borough council leader David Ellesmere argues that having a single Suffolk council would be a bad idea. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Colin Noble, the leader of Suffolk County Council, has announced he is paying consultants Respublica £68,000 to propose changes to how councils are run in Suffolk.

Respublica wrote a previous report that said, in places like Suffolk, all borough and district councils should be abolished and there should just be one “unitary” county council which runs everything.

So the conclusion of their report is probably already written and the £68,000 is for them to concoct the evidence to back this up.

I am in favour of unitary councils. Hardly anyone understands what different councils do. I get lots of people complaining to me about the state of our roads, when of course this is a County Council responsibility.

However, I believe a single Suffolk Unitary council would be much too big to respond to local concerns.

Think of all the services we have in Ipswich that aren’t available anywhere else in Suffolk.

Our brown bins are collected free of charge. We have an out-of-hours noise nuisance service. We have a comprehensive council-run CCTV system. Our HEARS community alarm scheme has professional responders. We have the Regent, Corn Exchange, Crown and Fore Street pools. We have a publicly-owned bus company.

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All of these would be under threat with a unitary county. Residents in the rest of Suffolk would complain that they were paying the same level of council tax but getting a worse service than Ipswich.

Because there are far more of them, their voice would be heard. Our services would be cut.

County councils are going bust and that is why they want to take over district councils. The Government has starved counties of cash and they don’t have enough money to deliver their services properly.

They see district councils as a piggy bank they can raid to bail themselves out.

It won’t work though. Their problems are just too big. The districts won’t save the counties. The counties will take the districts down with them.

Unless the Government fixes county council funding, services we now take for granted will be gone in a few years time and no amount of tinkering with the structure of local government is going to change that.

- David Ellesmere is the Labour leader of Ipswich Borough Council.

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