County council figures 'misleading'

PUBLISHED: 13:06 18 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:18 05 July 2010

WAVENEY District Council has criticised the financial case for a giant unitary Suffolk council, branding the savings announced by Suffolk County Council “utterly misleading”.

WAVENEY District Council has criticised the financial case for a giant unitary Suffolk council, branding the savings announced by Suffolk County Council “utterly misleading”.

Suffolk County Council presented details to the media yesterday in which they claimed the establishment of the mega-council would save taxpayers £85million over five years, but Waveney District Council believes that Suffolk have manipulated figures merely to grab headlines.

Colin Law, deputy leader of Waveney District Council said: “We simply do not know where this figure comes from and it bears no relation to the net savings that a new unitary authority would generate. This £85m fails to take in to account the cost of reorganisation and the ongoing costs of running such an enormous local authority. £85m is an utterly misleading figure and the reality would be nowhere near such a sum.”

Waveney also expressed grave concerns about the process that led County to reach this figure and believe that their finance chiefs have failed to agree their proposals with all of Suffolk's District and Borough Councils' finance officers as required by the Boundary Committee.

“It is a statutory requirement of the process that all councils' finance officers must endorse the figures presented by the lead authority to the Boundary Committee. Although we may not agree with the proposals we are obliged to contribute financial information to help produce the final business case.

“We saw this headline figure from Suffolk County Council for the first time when we picked up newspapers this morning and it bears absolutely no relation to any of the figures we saw as late as yesterday afternoon. These figures have even changed again today.

“What concerns me greatly is that Suffolk County Council are more interested in grabbing headlines and winning friends amongst the people of Suffolk by trotting out financial figures that do not stack up,” said Mr Law.

Waveney also believes that these financial headlines mask the real issues - namely the effective delivery of high quality services to local communities.

“While councils can indulge in a 'beauty contest' by claiming 'my savings are bigger than yours' the reality is that it will be up to any new unitary council to decide what Council Tax levels will be, what service improvements will be made or savings created. We think those authorities should be making those decisions with the knowledge of what's important to local people.

“Waveney, Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury will shortly present the business case for an improved unitary option for Suffolk, which puts Lowestoft back in the county and builds upon the Rural/North Haven option by creating East & West Suffolk authorities alongside North Haven.

“We believe this new option creates unitary councils that can really focus on different local priorities, empower communities and retain a strong regional voice. It is clearly the best solution for all of Suffolk, and will make savings while ensuring that residents are heard, residents are happy and their lives are improved,” said Mr Law.

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