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Referendum call on Suffolk County Council's New Strategic Direction

PUBLISHED: 13:43 09 March 2011

Suffolk County Council headquarters; Endeavour House, Ipswich.

Suffolk County Council headquarters; Endeavour House, Ipswich.

Archant

A CAMPAIGN is to be launched to force a referendum on Suffolk County Council's controversial cuts.

Under its New Strategic Direction (NSD), the authority has started to “divest” its services by encouraging community groups and parish councils to take over public services such as libraries and country parks.

The NSD forms part of the county council’s budget agreed last month which will save more than £40m.

However critics claim it will not only damage services in Suffolk but might harm the local economy because of the number of people who will lose their jobs.

A motion, lodged by the Green and Independent county councillor Mark Ereira, will be read out before the county council next week urging members to back calls for a referendum.

Mr Ereira said he expected his motion to fail because of the county council’s political make-up and instead aimed to get the 27,211 signatures required in Suffolk to force a referendum on the NSD.

He said: “I don’t want this to be partisan or party political. I was willing to give the NSD a few months but I think it now needs to move onto consultation and to ask the people of Suffolk whether they want divestment.

“We feel it has not been put to the electorate. I do accept there’s a clear political majority at Suffolk County Council... What I do dispute is that they are going down this particular route when other authorities in Suffolk are not. This smacks of the ridiculous and involves throwing all services at the communities at the same time without any time to plan and with no funding. The government has not taken away 100 per cent of our budget.”

Helen Muddock, Suffolk branch secretary of Unison, backed moves for a referendum.

“We feel very strongly that, having been out talking to people on the streets, people do feel they have not had a say. It is affecting people throughout Suffolk and the strength of feeling on this is huge.”

She said the county council was also Suffolk’s biggest employer and the loss of thousands of jobs would hit the economy hard.

The county council said it was unable to discuss the referendum proposal in detail because of the motion lodged with the full council.

David White, the county council’s deputy monitoring officer, said: “The county council has received a motion relating to the NSD, which will be debated at full council next week.

“Motions are part of the democratic process so it is for councillors to debate and decide on the outcome of that motion.”

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