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Next steps agreed for single council plans for West Suffolk

James Waters and John Griffiths. Picture Mark Westley.
James Waters and John Griffiths. Picture Mark Westley.

Leading councillors have agreed that plans to create a single council for West Suffolk should be explored.

A special joint cabinet meeting of St Edmundsbury Borough and Forest Heath District Councils on Tuesday decided that the proposals should be formally discussed by both authorities.

They are looking at creating a single council with a ‘large unified voice’ to strengthen their ability to deliver services in an era of Government funding cuts .

The two councils already share the majority of their services, which saves £4 million a year.

Cllr John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury, said: “I’m pleased cabinets have had the opportunity to sit down together and start the process of formally looking at the benefits of a single council.

“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.”

Cllr James Waters, leader of Forest Heath, added: “Our communities want to make sure we’re constantly looking to improve and transform the way we work.

“That we not only deliver services but help create jobs, support residents and drive the local economy. Our cabinets have given a clear message that we now should look at this to bring real benefits for the communities we serve.”

They are looking to create the new council in time for local elections in 2019.

Councillors and officers will now test the plan for a single authority against other options to create a draft business case. These options include maintaining the current structure, reverting to working as two separate councils on some or all matters or expanding the shared services arrangement to include new partner organisations.

The draft business case will be considered by both councils this June and, if approved, a public engagement process would follow in the summer. The final business case for a single authority would go back to both councils in September.

If the proposal is endorsed, they would then apply to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

A boundary review is due to be held before 2019 to determine the number of councillors needed.

The cabinet also recommended forming a steering group of councillors to look at some of the technical issues around creating the single council.

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