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Unitary proposals 'will save £30m'

PUBLISHED: 12:08 23 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:20 05 July 2010

SEPARATE councils covering east Suffolk, west Suffolk and North Haven will save council tax payers around £30 million a year between them, once the setting-up costs have been paid, leaders of three district councils claim.

SEPARATE councils covering east Suffolk, west Suffolk and North Haven will save council tax payers around £30 million a year between them, once the setting-up costs have been paid, leaders of three district councils claim.

The savings mean the “keep us local” option of three councils focused on their own unique areas of Suffolk is a viable alternative to the Boundary Committee for England's two-council proposal (North Haven and Rural Suffolk).

The case for three unitary councils (which would deliver all the services currently provided by district and county councils) is being sent to the Boundary Committee this week after it pledged to consider viable alternatives alongside their own proposal. Council leaders, Geoffrey Jaggard (Forest Heath), John Griffiths (St Edmundsbury) and Mark Bee (Waveney), who all support local councils covering west Suffolk, east Suffolk and North Haven and oppose one giant countywide authority, said: “Our figures prove that true local democracy is affordable. Biggest is not always best - democracy has a price but our proposal shows east Suffolk, west Suffolk and North Haven will make the same significant savings year on year as the giant county option. We are convinced our residents want to keep decision-making local by making sure their council tax is invested in their own unique areas of Suffolk and not swallowed up by a remote and cumbersome unitary attempting to balance the whole county's needs.

“Our proposal means residents can escape the threat of all top-level decisions being taken by people miles away from them with very limited local knowledge, while also enjoying a real cut in costs.”

The leaders believe the proposal for east Suffolk, west Suffolk and North Haven passes all the Government's tests, including affordability. This test requires all the costs involved in setting up unitary councils to be paid back through savings within five years. Set against Suffolk's total budgets, the difference between the set-up costs of three unitary councils and those for one council is just 0.46pc over the five years.

The three council leaders added: “In the coming weeks there will be so many figures bandied about that residents will struggle to know who to believe. While councils can indulge in a 'beauty contest' by claiming 'my savings are bigger than yours' the reality is that it will be up to any new unitary council to decide what Council Tax levels will be, what service improvements will be made or savings created. We think those authorities should be making those decisions with the knowledge of what's important to local people. The bottom line is that three councils make financial as well as democratic sense.”

Forest Heath, St Edmundsbury and Waveney councils will present the evidence supporting unitary councils in east Suffolk, west Suffolk and North Haven on September 26. All proposals need to prove they have a broad cross section of support, would provide strong leadership and opportunities for communities to influence decision making, deliver value for money and be affordable by paying back the costs of setting up within five years.

The Boundary Committee is carrying out a review of local government in Suffolk and Norfolk and will make a recommendation to the Government in December, with a final decision expected in February 2009.

More information about the proposals for east Suffolk, west Suffolk and North Haven are on the website: www.keepuslocal.net or people can email info@keepuslocal.net

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