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Yartoft hopes raised

PUBLISHED: 16:07 06 February 2008 | UPDATED: 19:39 05 July 2010

MINISTERS today fired the "official" starting gun for a multi-million pound overall of council services in Suffolk and Norfolk.

In a written parliamentary statement local government minister John Healey confirmed that the independent boundary committee will have until December 31 to review the current council arrangements in Norfolk, Suffolk and Devon and propose any alternatives.

MINISTERS today fired the “official” starting gun for a multi-million pound overall of council services in Suffolk and Norfolk.

In a written parliamentary statement local government minister John Healey confirmed that the independent boundary committee will have until December 31 to review the current council arrangements in Norfolk, Suffolk and Devon and propose any alternatives.

He said the boundary committee will take a close look at the best way of delivering services in and around Norwich, Ipswich and Exeter - who all failed to make the grade previously because of concerns their proposals did not stack up.

The move marks the end of weeks of talks between the boundary committee and government over the review - amid fears that the process was set to stall.

The Government previously announced that while it did not think the proposals for unitary councils put forward by these councils in these areas met its five criteria, there remained a case for unitary arrangements covering the city, borough, and potentially wider county areas.

But the review, which appears to give the boundary committee a blank slate to create any new alternatives, could see the current system of a single county and district councils swept away by one-size-fits-all unitary authorities charged with providing all services from schools to rubbish collection.

Supporters believe the changes will deliver services better tailored to the needs of communities. But critics fear the costs could run into millions and will have to be borne by local council taxpayers.

And Mr Healey confirmed that it could pave the way for a cross-border tie-up between Waveney and Yarmouth - the so-called Yartoft option.

“Having invited councils to come forward with their own proposals for unitary councils we believe that there is a case for unitary authorities for Norwich, Ipswich, Exeter and the surrounding areas,” Mr Healey said.

“The boundary committee has been asked to advise on the possible options for effective unitary local government that will improve services and save money for local communities.

“Re-structuring is set to deliver over £90m savings a year in the six counties already going ahead next year. These can be used directly to improve frontline services or to reduce council tax bills.

“It's right that we look at whether these benefits can also be realised around Norwich, Ipswich and Exeter, but only if the proposals meet our five tough tests.

“It is now down to the boundary committee to work closely with the local authorities and other interested organisations to recommend by the end of the year the most effective and practical course of action for each individual area.

“I also want to reassure staff, who need to continue delivering high-quality public services for their area and during this period. If any changes are implemented, their current terms and conditions will be protected when they transfer to any new council.”

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