New Suffolk row over New Strategic Direction

PROPOSALS to change the emphasis of Suffolk County Council's New Strategic Direction (NSD) have been approved by councillors, despite a robust challenge from the opposition.

The county will now look at divesting services based on the principle of 'Your Place' rather than looking at each service separately.

That means the county will look at joining services, like libraries, country parks, youth clubs and school crossing patrols together and finding community groups willing to take on all of them – rather than looking at spinning off each service separately.

However, the paper that was taken to the county council was very complex – and opposition leader Kathy Pollard described it as 'a load of gobbledegook'.

She said: 'In my 24 years as a councillor, I don't think I have ever read such a badly-written paper. The recommendation on the first page is unintelligible and ambiguous, much like the New Strategic Direction itself.' Mrs Pollard was concerned about all aspects of the policy. She said: 'The whole strategy is incredibly risky.'

Council leader Jeremy Pembroke said the NSD had been debated before and endorsed in December.

He said: 'Our proposals are all about having an on-going conversation with local people about what they want in their area and how this can be delivered – finding place-based solutions that cut across service providers such as local government, health or the police.'

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Liberal Democrat councillor Craig Dearden-Phillips said he hoped the NSD did not simply allow large service companies to move in and take over services from the county council.

Cabinet member Colin Noble said the whole policy was based on local people coming up with local solutions – run by organisations rooted in their communities.

He defended the language in the motion, saying: 'The NSD is about cutting costs – and it's about building a sustainable new approach to meeting local needs.

'A paper like this doesn't answer all the questions – it poses questions and we are asking: 'What do you want in your community?'

'I think it is written quite well.'