Why Suffolk has to change

Max Caller, chairman of the Boundary Committee for England, explains why it has recommended unitary councils for SuffolkIT seems like sometimes we may only talk about it when something goes wrong or we have a complaint to make, but whatever you do today - whether it's taking the dog for a walk in the park, borrowing a library book, or recycling this newspaper - will be affected by your local authority.

Graham Dines

Max Caller, chairman of the Boundary Committee for England, explains why it has recommended unitary councils for Suffolk

IT seems like sometimes we may only talk about it when something goes wrong or we have a complaint to make, but whatever you do today - whether it's taking the dog for a walk in the park, borrowing a library book, or recycling this newspaper - will be affected by your local authority.

More than that, local government provides the services that help you and your community to live, work, travel and play: it has the power to change our lives for the better and each of us has a stake in its future.


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At the Boundary Committee, we've been asked by the government to give advice on whether a system of local government made up of one or more unitary authorities could work in Suffolk and Norfolk.

That means one single tier of local government delivering services that have previously been the responsibility of either district, city or county councils.

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We're completely independent of government, so the advice we give will be based on the evidence we gather from our work in your county and your responses to us.

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We think a unitary authority based around Ipswich and Felixstowe

has the potential to make the most of the economic opportunities

afforded by the Haven Gateway area, whereas a Suffolk county authority

without Ipswich could focus on providing strong leadership

for its rural towns and villages

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The draft proposal that we've issued is the next phase in a long journey for local government. Two years ago, Ipswich and Norwich bid to run all their services independently from their county councils.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government decided that those bids didn't meet certain criteria, so she asked us to advise her on whether unitary government could work for everyone in the county.

We take our responsibilities to people in Suffolk extremely seriously. We've already spent a lot of time talking to people and councils in the county and asking them what they think. We've considered the concepts sent in by councils, political parties, and individuals and our draft proposal reflects the evidence we've seen and heard during that phase of the process.

In making our draft proposal, we've had to keep five criteria in mind. We need to ensure that any future authority is affordable; has a broad cross-section of support in the community; engages effectively with its communities from large towns to the smallest hamlet; is capable of thinking and leading strategically; and can provide value for money services.

We've also set out another concept that we think may also have merits. At this time, we don't believe it meets the criteria as well as our draft proposal, but we're prepared to hear what people have to say about it/them.

The draft proposal we've published for Suffolk is wide-ranging. It's based on the evidence we've seen and heard from our many visits to the county.

We think a unitary authority based around Ipswich and Felixstowe has the potential to make the most of the economic opportunities afforded by the Haven Gateway area, whereas a Suffolk county authority without Ipswich could focus on providing strong leadership for its rural towns and villages.

We also believe that people in the Lowestoft town area would be better served by being linked with Great Yarmouth in a unitary authority in Norfolk.

We want to hear your views on the proposals, and on the alternative concept for a unitary Suffolk county authority we've put on the table.

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We believe that people in the Lowestoft town area would be better served

being linked with Great Yarmouth in a unitary authority in Norfolk

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We recognise that people will have strong opinions about the draft proposal, and it's quite right that they should: it has the potential to affect the roads you drive on, the parks your children play in, and the care provided for your loved ones. That's why we want people across Suffolk to tell us what they think. But just as importantly, we want you to tell us why you think that.

Our aim is that the final recommendation we put forward at the end of this process should be one that gives you and your community more say in the decisions that affect you; should provide the services to you more efficiently and with better results; and should have the capacity to provide real leadership for your community. We can't do that without your views.

Of course, money will be a factor in these decisions. It's true that, if they go ahead, there'll be an initial cost involved in setting up unitary local government in the county. But we think the proposal we're putting forward has potential to make savings in the long term. Those savings could then be directed where they're needed - in delivering better services to people across the county.

Between now and September 26 we want to hear what you have to say. Your local library will have posters and leaflets explaining our review, and your local council will also have information. And our website, www.boundarycommittee.org.uk should have all the information you'll need.

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