Government proposals back Suffolk County Council shake-up

SUFFOLK County Council's proposal to 'divest' services has received Government backing as the Department for Local Government and Communities publishes its new 'localism' Bill.

The new Bill is aimed at forcing reluctant councils to invite other organisations to run services instead of them.

Suffolk County Council is already hoping that other organisations will take over delivering services as part of its divestment strategy.

The Government said there were two major issues in the Bill:

• Community Right to Buy: Local groups will have a legal right to nominate any vital community asset, including local shops, pubs, libraries and leisure centres to be assessed for recording on a 'most wanted' list by the local council. If a listed asset goes on the open market, its sale will be delayed, triggering a 'community countdown' that will give people time to prepare their business plan and raise the funds they need to bid.

• Community Right to Challenge: Opening the door to a transformation in the way that local public services are run, Right to Challenge gives community or voluntary sector groups, as well as parish councils and council employees delivering the service, new powers to challenge and take over a local service.

This is the type of service that the county council is hoping to develop in Suffolk.

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County council leader Jeremy Pembroke said: 'I wholeheartedly welcome this announcement.

'Giving local groups more powers over the services that are important to them and their communities is right at the heart of our thinking with the New Strategic Direction.

'Suffolk County Council's plans are precisely about encouraging a diverse range of new, local, service providers, and helping neighbourhood groups take over local services. This announcement from the Government demonstrates how closely our aims dovetail with the localism agenda.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, said: 'This powerful series of measures puts new rights in law for people to protect, improve and even run important frontline services.

'The rights are also a massive opportunity for the community and voluntary sector to demonstrate their innovation and the new ideas they can bring to the table for better, cost-effective services.'