Waveney District Council chief executive Stephen Baker offers his opinion on 2016 and what the future holds in 2017

New supplied picture of Stephen Baker, chief executive of WDC. Picture: SUPPLIED

New supplied picture of Stephen Baker, chief executive of WDC. Picture: SUPPLIED - Credit: Archant

I think it would be safe to say that 2016 has been an interesting year. Never dull, sometimes exciting and often challenging – it feels like a decade of news and activity has been somehow crammed in to 12 months.

For many the New Year will be an opportunity to put 2016 to one side and perhaps take a breather – 2017 can't be as eventful, can it? Well from my point of view, as the Chief Executive of both Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils, it could well top the lot.

In January, councillors will decide whether the two authorities should combine to create a historic, brand new 'super district' covering all of east Suffolk and in May we will have the first ever elections to the brand new Lowestoft Town and Oulton Broad Parish Councils.

There is no question that these are big decisions and events in the history of the councils and the town of Lowestoft and they are being taken with one simple question in mind: in the current economic climate, what is the best way to ensure that local people continue to receive the best possible standard of services?

I can speak from personal experience when I say that staff at both councils work extremely hard and always put our communities first. But in challenging circumstances, it is absolutely clear that we cannot stand still and the decision regarding a potential merger is an example of our determination to innovate and to progress.

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Should the merger be agreed, I want to reassure the people of Lowestoft and beyond that this does not mean a cut to services and it certainly doesn't mean that decisions will be taken away from Waveney and made in Suffolk Coastal, or vice versa! It is a plan which is designed to maintain high standards and not weaken or dilute the things that matter to you.

If anything we want to increase the opportunities for local decision making, which is why the creation of new councils for Lowestoft and Oulton Broad are so important. Throughout Waveney, towns and parishes boast their own smaller councils, making specific decisions which empower and improve their communities. The absence of such authorities in these two locations is an anomaly we are delighted to resolve.

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2016 has certainly been a year to remember and I hope, for all the right reasons, that 2017 is memorable too. On behalf of all the teams working at Waveney District Council, I would like to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year.

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