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Waveney: 'Stay as you are'

PUBLISHED: 09:58 12 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:16 06 July 2010

Mark Boggis

IT has taken over two years and cost hundreds of thousands of pounds….but there will be no major changes to local government in Waveney for the foreseeable future.

IT has taken over two years and cost hundreds of thousands of pounds….but there will be no major changes to local government in Waveney for the foreseeable future.

The eagerly-awaited shake-up of councils in Suffolk ended in a damp squib on Wednesday as plans to change local government in the county were kicked into touch.

Leaders from Suffolk's district and borough councils hit out at the “botched” local government review this week, claiming that the ministerial decision to back off making any changes to councils in the county was “a complete waste of time and money” and a “farce.”

After months of debate and uncertainty, local government minister Rosie Winterton told the local councils they can stay as they are and keep running services as normal - because no-one had been able to agree on the best unitary option to replace it.

Instead ministers want councillors and MPs to form a new “constitutional convention” and agree a way forward.

This decision was widely condemned by councils across the county as it spells the end for the Boundary Committee's options of either a single unitary council for the whole of Suffolk, or a rival option for two unitaries - one based on Ipswich and Felixstowe and a second for the rest of Suffolk.

In a joint statement, the leaders of Forest Heath, St Edmundsbury, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney councils said they “deplored the wasted hours and years” spent on the process.

Councillors Geoffrey Jaggard, (Forest Heath) John Griffiths (St Edmundsbury), Ray Herring (Suffolk Coastal) and Mark Bee (Waveney) said: “The Boundary Committee botched their job by recommending two unworkable and unpopular options so we are not surprised that the government has decided not to make any decision in Suffolk.”

The Journal understands that the seven district and borough councils in Suffolk spent up to £200,000 each on preparing their cases in the unitary debate - with the cost to councils also hitting officer time, as senior officials spent many hours on the debate when they could have been focusing on other projects.

Leader of Waveney District Council, Mark Bee said the council would concentrate on its day job and work closer with neighbouring Suffolk Coastal.

“This has been a dog's breakfast,” he said. “It doesn't make any sense, what its legal status is or who is going to be there? Is it going to be retiring MPs or parliamentary candidates? Is it going to be this side of a general election or afterwards?

“All this was done by the back door and the government hasn't even got the guts to stand up in the House of Commons and announce it,” he added. “We are just getting on with our partnership work with Suffolk Coastal and we see that as the way forward.”

But Mr Bee said that the tight financial environment would accelerate the trend of closer working between Suffolk councils.

“In five years time we will have 'super districts' in Suffolk,” he added. “We will probably have an East-coast one, which will be two-tier but may take responsibilities from county such as coastal issues or the management of the A12.”

With a partnership board of senior councillors from Waveney and Suffolk Coastal meeting for the first time on Wednesday , Mr Bee added this would be the way forward.

“The silver lining is that we can now push on with our progressive plans to deliver better services in partnership with Suffolk Coastal,” he said. The sense of common purpose (at this partnership board meeting) was palpable. Together we can save money and improve outcomes and I am delighted that the shackles of this botched Local Government Review process have finally been removed.”

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