Secretary of State ‘minded’ to back new West Suffolk Council

Plans to create a new single council for West Suffolk have taken another significant step forward today (Thursday, November 30) after the Secretary of State announced his support for proposals.

Council Leaders in West Suffolk have welcomed the announcement by The Rt Hon Sajid Javid, MP, Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government that he is “minded to implement” the plans.

The Minister said he had reached his decision on the basis of the business plan which showed that the new council would better help support services, provide greater value for money and provide stronger strategic and local leadership.

Both councils have been at the forefront of transforming local government and in his statement the Secretary of State said the new council would likely continue these improvements.

He also highlighted the strong local support that had been shown for the proposals, as well as the fact the two authorities’ shared geography made sense as one authority.

Both Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough Council put forward the plans to drive prosperity, jobs and meet future challenges.

The new authority, which also has strong support from local residents, businesses and public services, would replace both current councils.

A programme of engagement saw 70% of residents back the initiative in an independent poll and public feedback helped shape the final business case.

The new council would better drive jobs, deliver services and continue investment to support local communities than the current arrangement. In addition it would generate around £800,000 in savings and efficiencies and help protect the additional £4 million of annual savings already produced by sharing services.

At the same time a new council would also better support, invest in and meet the challenges facing communities, such as increased population, demand on health care and housing as well as reduced funding nationally.

Both councils agreed to send the business case to Government for consideration and a legal order be drawn up ready to make the change with elections in 2019.

Both councils have been providing a strong case to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England to make sure strong representation of local communities is maintained.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council leader John Griffiths, said: “This is great news. It reflects the compelling argument we made and the general support there is for a new council that puts us in a better position to meet the aspirations of our communities. We have listened to local residents and organisations who agree lines on a map or council structures should not get in the way of providing services or hamper us from seizing opportunities for continued investment in our communities.

“The case for creating a new single council was compelling and once again puts us at the forefront of transforming how local government works to benefit directly the people we serve. Not only can we continue to deliver high quality services but we can better champion our area, drive the local economy, jobs and prosperity in West Suffolk while tackling the challenges facing all public services.”

Forest Heath District councillor James Waters, said: “We welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement that he is minded to implement our proposals to further drive prosperity and better support our communities. The speed at which the Secretary of State has made his announcement is a clear indication of the strength of our case and the recognition of the part we play now and in the future in helping drive the economy.

“Doing what is right for our communities is at the heart of what we do. The benefits to our residents is clear and there is strong support from local people, businesses and local organisations. Staying still is not an option if we are to meet future challenges and better champion our communities, both locally and nationally, as well as continuing to deliver high quality services. This means we are not only in a better position to have a louder voice but a real opportunity to find even more effective ways to work more closely and support our local organisations and residents. I look forward to helping create this new single council.”

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