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Public should have say on unitary status

PUBLISHED: 09:06 21 August 2008 | UPDATED: 21:05 05 July 2010

LOCAL government in Suffolk should be left alone until residents are asked the basic question “do you want unitary councils,” one of the county's most influential pressure groups said this week.

LOCAL government in Suffolk should be left alone until residents are asked the basic question “do you want unitary councils,” one of the county's most influential pressure groups said this week.

However, the plea by the Suffolk Preservation Society is almost certain to go unheeded as the Boundary Committee for England is working on the Government's instructions that the county council and seven district authorities be replaced with “unitary solutions.”

The BCE last month published proposals for two unitary authorities - Ipswich-Felixstowe and Suffolk rural. It will also listen to representations for a single whole county unitary, but is insisting that Lowestoft be joined with a new Norfolk unitary.

“This whole review has sprung from Ipswich's failed bid to become a unitary authority rather than the local community's desire for unitary local government,” said Richard Ward, director of Suffolk Preservation Society.

“The consultation is not offering people of Suffolk any choice as we are actually being asked the wrong question. Rather than 'how should we carve up the county?' the Boundary Committee should first be asking 'do you want or need unitary government?'”

Mr Ward said: “The review is imposing this model of local government on our county and our communities without giving people the chance to look first at the very principle of establishing unitary authorities.

“Our communities have not been allowed to voice an opinion on the need for change. We suspect if they were asked if they wanted a unitary authority, the answer from everywhere outside of Ipswich would be loud and clear 'no'.”

Mr Ward warned that any attempts to force Suffolk's people into accepting a unitary government were bound to fail due to a lack of local support or ownership.

He added: “There has been no agreement whatsoever within the wider Suffolk that the current structure is not working to the extent that it should be replaced.

“In addition, we, as a county, have not been given the opportunity to consider what other options are open to us to make sure decision making is more local while also securing greater accountability and improvements to service delivery.

“If there are problems with existing service delivery, we should also look at improving the structures which are in already in place rather than creating new ones. This would be altogether a cheaper, more effective, more efficient way of approaching the future of local government.”


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