Have your say on boundary shake-up

THE Journal today links up with Waveney District Council leader Mark Bee to urge readers to make their views known on the proposed major local authority shake-up of Lowestoft and Waveney.

THE Journal today links up with Waveney District Council leader Mark Bee to urge readers to make their views known on the proposed major local authority shake-up of Lowestoft and Waveney.

Earlier this week the Boundary Committee created shock waves by proposing that Lowestoft should split from the rest of Waveney and become part of Norfolk.

If the proposals are accepted the rest of Waveney would join a rural Suffolk unitary authority with its headquarters likely to be at Bury St Edmunds in the west of the county.

A third unitary authority would be responsible for the Ipswich and Felixstowe area.

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At present Suffolk has a county council and seven district or borough councils.

Mr Bee said: “The Boundary Committee laid down clear criteria for any boundary changes and if these are not met, the proposals fall down. I would therefore implore anyone who feels strongly about this to tell the Boundary Committee in no uncertain terms.”

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He said serious questions needed to be asked.

“Is this affordable and how can it deliver value for money? Where is the strategic

leadership and neighbourhood empowerment in such giant, unwieldy mega-councils?” said Mr Bee.

“If these proposals are to be consigned to the waste bin, these are the questions that need to be addressed. We need to show the Boundary Committee that it cannot work and why,” he said.

Opposition to the proposals has united politicians on Waveney District Council.

Nick Webb, deputy leader of the Labour group on the council, said: “Nobody requested this, nobody recommended it. It's the worst of all worlds and makes a mockery of the whole process.”

Journal editor Russell Cook also believes it is vital that people make their views known to the Boundary Committee before any final proposals are put forward to the government.

“There are two significant issues that people should be aware of and that need addressing. Lowestoft becoming part of a Greater Norfolk is one and the other is that Kessingland and communities in Waveney are being separated from Lowestoft to become part of a large rural authority so people across the district need to have their opinions listened to.

“We've been regarded as the forgotten part of Suffolk for many years … I would not want us to be the forgotten part of Norfolk.”

Earlier this year during the consultation period Journal readers were strongly in favour of keeping the status quo.

They responded to a coupon printed in the paper with 60pc in favour of keeping the existing two-tier system but establishing closer working relationships between Waveney and neighbouring Suffolk Coastal.

The Yartoft option received 30pc in favour with 10pc supporting a new Suffolk-wide unitary authority.

There was no suggestion of Lowestoft merging with Norfolk during the consultation period.

On Wednesday MPs of all parties in Suffolk and Norfolk united to savage the proposals.

Leading officers from the Boundary Committee were left in no doubt about the MPs' strong feelings during a meeting held at Westminster.

Former Labour Home Secretary Charles Clarke, MP for Norwich South, said the proposals had “no chance” of being approved in Parliament.

He was supported by Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, a former Conservative Cabinet member, who said the Boundary Committee's primary proposals were “going nowhere”.

The Lowestoft and Waveney Chamber of Commerce is also opposing the proposals.

President George Swietlik and chief officer Linda Thornton released the following statement: “We believe that as a chamber we should make strong representation to the Boundary Committee's recommendation and report.

“We think that Lowestoft disappearing into a Norfolk administration is really no better than the present status quo. This area needs to have its own identity for its future development and strategically for fulfilling future national energy interests.”

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