'An historic day' - East Suffolk boss buoyant as councils officially merge
PUBLISHED: 15:23 01 April 2019 | UPDATED: 15:32 01 April 2019
The head of a new ‘super council’ says the significance of the authority’s formation cannot be underestimated.
Stephen Baker, who is now chief executive of East Suffolk Council, welcomed officers and councillors this morning as they arrived at the Riverside offices in Lowestoft.
For staff it marked the first day of officially working under the new name following an extensive process which has seen Waveney and Suffolk Coastal district councils merge.
Mr Baker, who was already CEO across the two dissolved councils, said April 1, 2019, would always be considered “momentus”.
“This is the first time councils have volunteered to dissolve and merge to create a much bigger, single council,” he said.
“It’s an historic day because, having submitted our business case in 2016, we’ve taken some time to get here - but here we are.
“It’s also really significant for communities - suddenly it’s East Suffolk which will be recognised as the district council and we will be the single biggest district council in the country in terms of population.
“That’s already having an impact because members of the local community and people who look to us recognise that we can punch our weight.”
Despite a forthcoming election which will see the number of councillors in the East Suffolk area dramatically reduced, it is hoped there will be very few tangible differences in terms of council operation.
There have been no staff redundancies as a result of the change and the council will still operate from the existing offices in Lowestoft and Melton.
“It’s supposed to be a seamless transition,” added Mr Baker. “I’m hoping that, from today onwards, very little will change compared to last week.
“After May 2 we’ll have 55 councillors instead of 90 and a single leader and cabinet instead of two. That will symbolise a really significant shift, but the job of officers is to respond and work with councillors to ensure they can deliver.
“This new system will be stronger for East Suffolk. The councils have worked together magnificently in recent years, but there’s no doubt having a single council and political base will take it on to a whole new level.
“Members were concerned that a bigger council would be more distant from local communities, so they are working up various governance options and want to put in place mechanisms which enable them to keep working closely with them.”