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Leaders propose single council merger for West Suffolk

The leaders of Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury local authorities have put forward ambitious plans to create a new single council that would lead on all services in West Suffolk.

The plan, intended to drive prosperity in the region by building on the already-successful partnership working between the two councils, would mean a single body would be created based on current district and borough council services and boundaries.

Cllr James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council, and Cllr John Griffiths, who heads up St Edmundsbury Borough Council, argued in a statement of intent that these changes would lead to an even greater ability to deliver vital services “while at the same time drive forward an ambitions vision of growth, jobs and economic prosperity for our unique area”.

They also said a merger would future-proof for “the next decade and beyond”, ensuring a “firm financial base” and stability to meet challenges across health, housing and central government cuts.

The two councils have already achieved annual savings of £4m by sharing services, but are now keen to consolidate these efficiencies and push even further beyond them, meaning more money can be reinvested in the community.

Cllr Griffiths explained: “I think most people care more that we are delivering services in the most effective way than they do about council structures, boundaries and processes. They want us to be forward thinking and not let structure get in the way of providing jobs, opportunity and continued vibrant communities.

“We have already achieved much working together and sharing services, directly benefiting our communities. That has given us the firm financial footing and now a golden opportunity to look at how to even better meet future challenges, drive growth and prosperity while continuing to deliver high quality services.”

The two councils are already working closely, but this merger could enable them to be “both stronger together and more fleet of foot, to grasp commercial opportunities to further benefit our communities, deliver housing and talk to big business and government”, argued Cllr Griffiths.

“At the same time we would remain small enough to actually deliver the real local initiatives in west Suffolk that are vital,” he concluded.

His counterpart in Forest Heath, Cllr Waters, emphasised that residents “do not care what logo is on their bin, but that we continue to empty them in the most cost-effective way”.

Furthermore, he added, west Suffolk is an “attractive are to live in and for developers and business to invest in”, as well as uniquely positioned with “good networks” and “a range of industries from racing to high-tech to agriculture”.

While still being the right size to ensure continued support for local villages and towns, a single council would also bring a unified strategic vision for the whole area and a more solid leadership base from which to command change.

Following both leaders’ statement of intent, published today, the Cabinet of both councils will now have to agree to the proposals, which will then require a stamp from each Full Council.


L Dedman   12/05/2017 at 11:47

Where have we heard all this before? The two Leaders proposing abolition of their own councils clearly took their reasons and comments from the Handbook and Dictionary of Local Government reorganisation.

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