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Councils united in boundary campaign

PUBLISHED: 11:42 02 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:11 05 July 2010

COUNCIL leaders are fighting off attempts to take the "local" out of local government in the county and have joined forces to propose three unitary councils covering East Suffolk, West Suffolk and North Haven.

COUNCIL leaders are fighting off attempts to take the “local” out of local government in the county and have joined forces to propose three unitary councils covering East Suffolk, West Suffolk and North Haven.

And they are also launching a new website this week - www.keepuslocal.net - to keep people up to date with the fight to safeguard Suffolk.

The Leaders of Forest Heath District Council, St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Waveney District Council have all agreed to send in a joint proposal to the Boundary Committee for England, which is reviewing the shape of local government in Suffolk.

This would set out a solution which improves on the draft proposals put forward in July by the Committee for a unitary covering Ipswich and Felixstowe (North Haven) and another (rural Suffolk) covering the rest of the county, except for Lowestoft which would be pushed into Norfolk.

The three Leaders agree that North Haven can work as a concept but want to improve the Boundary Committee's proposal for a “rural Suffolk”.

In a joint statement, Geoffrey Jaggard (leader, Forest Heath), John Griffiths (leader, St Edmundsbury) and Mark Bee (leader, Waveney), said: “We understand the thinking behind the Boundary Committee's proposals, but believe we can improve it further by bringing Lowestoft back into Suffolk where it would be a strategic part of an East Suffolk unitary, working alongside West Suffolk and North Haven. We know there is tremendous support for this concept among people across the whole county.”

The three unitary councils would to be big enough to work strategically and have a strong voice at regional, national and international levels either as individuals - focused on issues unique to their areas - or collectively when the issues concerned all of Suffolk. But, unlike giant unitaries covering massive areas, they would also be connected with their local communities and able to invest resources where they are needed most.

The statement continued: “We don't want 'big government' trying to take over our towns and villages - that's simply not the Suffolk way. Vital services such as schools, libraries, road maintenance and bin collections are at stake and we urge the Boundary Committee to consider our proposal which would keep us local and keep us in touch with our local people while also being much more accountable to them. We hope the Boundary Committee will understand we are keen to cut costs and save council tax payers' money whilst promoting community engagement and local democracy but we believe this can all be achieved much more efficiently through three unitaries focused on our own unique areas.”

The proposal being drafted now will set out new evidence about why East and West Suffolk unitaries make sense alongside North Haven.

Mark Bee said: “If unitary government is a path we must follow there is no question that this is the best way. Strategically powerful, but locally accountable, an East Suffolk unitary - working closely with our friends in the west and in North Haven - would secure the highest standard of service provision for our residents. This is local decision making for local residents and we must convince this Government that we know better than anyone what it takes to deliver the services that matter to the people who need them.”

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