Councillors in united ‘halt’ call

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich

A plea for a £70,000 local Government review to be scrapped has been issued by every district and borough council leader in the county.

A joint letter from all the council leaders was sent to Suffolk County Council this week, appealing for it to halt the review of local government structures it initiated.

They have asked that all councils and public sector organisations – such as health and emergency services – work together on proposals, a move they say would deliver greater benefits and savings.

Suffolk County Council has asked independent think tank ResPublica to investigate the merits of the county asking the Government for a reformed system, which could see Suffolk governed by just one council.

The review is also looking into retaining the current two-tier structure of county and borough/district councils, and devolution.

A previous push for a unitary authority in Suffolk was ditched in 2010.

The leaders of St Edmundsbury, Forest Heath, Babergh, Mid Suffolk, Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney councils jointly say they are concerned they were not contacted about the proposals or involved in drawing up the consultants’ brief.

The leaders’ letter to Suffolk County Council says councils across the county and public sector partners have achieved millions of pounds of investment by working together, but they warn the review could undo that work and waste money.

All councils are facing financial pressures, but the district and borough council leaders say the county’s unilateral action in commissioning a review is not the way forward.

They are also concerned ResPublica’s previous work for the County Councils Network means the findings of any review could be weighted to a predetermined outcome.

Suffolk County Council confirmed it would not cancel the review, citing a ‘moral imperative’ to look at what future savings could be made.

Cllr Colin Noble, Suffolk County Council leader, said: “We must be bold and, if needs be, radical as leaders.

“There is nothing to be afraid of here – this is an opportunity to look at and discuss anything and everything about how the public sector in Suffolk is structured, operates and delivers services to residents. After all, it’s their hard-earned money.”