The future of west Suffolk councils

Around west SuffolkNew single council for west Suffolk

Proposals to create a new West Suffolk Council to drive prosperity, jobs and meet future challenges have been backed by Government.

The Rt Hon Sajid Javid, MP, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government supported the proposals following a period of engagement in an official announcement on 8 February.

The draft order will now be heard by Parliament and the announcement gives the go ahead for both authorities to get ready for the 2019 elections.

Both councils agreed to look at the creation of a new single council for West Suffolk to help better drive prosperity,  the economy and benefits for our communities.

A draft business case was produced which suggested that making no changes or going back to two separate councils would have a negative impact on achieving the aims of both authorities and services. It was found a single council could better meet the challenges facing our communities, such as increased population, demand on health care and reduced funding. At the same time it could better drive jobs, deliver services and continue investment to support our communities. In addition it would generate hundreds of thousands of pounds of savings and efficiencies.

A new council would entirely replace the borough and district council but continue to deliver the same services.

Already both councils successfully share services, for example collecting your bins or ensuring people can access the right housing – saving local taxpayers £4 million every year. We now want to look to build on these successes to bring about even more benefits and continue to invest even more into supporting our communities under a new single council.

A single council would allow us to better:

  • deliver services that are vital for our communities and businesses while at the same time driving forward an ambitious vision of growth, jobs and economic prosperity for our unique area
  • future-proof for the next decade and beyond - to ensure a firm financial base and stability to meet the challenges faced by our communities such as improving health, the need for more homes and reduced national funding
  • consolidate the savings and efficiencies we have made and make even more that can be reinvested to work with and benefit our communities.

It would mean the council is the right size to still deliver local and tailored solutions but also have a large and unified voice to champion the aspirations of our communities nationally and to attract new businesses.

In addition the new council could bring savings and efficiencies totalling around £800,000 every year. We also want to reassure you that services would continue and these savings and efficiencies would not be through cuts but through not needing double the amount of things we have now or increasing our capacity to do more.

Councillors agreed the business case should be looked at and a period of engagement held on its recommendations.

Since May we have been talking to our community and partners about the proposals including a period of engagement for people to find out about the plans and have their say. This has included contacting partners, businesses and local organisations as well as a dedicated web page where people could make their views known. A phone poll was also carried out by an independent company that was statistically representative. That period of engagement finished on 31 August and the findings and comments will help inform councillors and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if the proposals move goes forward.

A cross party councillor steering group has been set up to look at various issues to also help inform any proposals going forward. This includes the number of councillors the new council would have. We have also set up a page to help answer some of the common questions

Councillors met on 26 September (St Edmundsbury Borough Council) and 27 September (Forest Heath District Council) to look at the updated business case and consider the views expressed during the engagement – which were broadly supportive of the proposals.

Both councils and their cabinets agreed proposals for a new council should go forward and an application was made to the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State announced on 30 November, 2017 he is minded to implement the plan which would see a parliamentary order made to enable the change to happen ready for 2019. He will hear further representations until 19 January 2018 before making a final decision.

Benefits

A single council would bring real and lasting benefits to all residents in the area. A new single council would give the area a greater ability to:

 

  • be stronger and financially resilient to surpass the challenges of reduced public funding and any changes to local government
  • be the right size to continue to support our local villages, towns and communities but with a larger and stronger unified voice to more effectively lobby Government and attract internationally recognised businesses
  • have a unified strategic vision for the whole area enabling us to be even more pro-active and able to capitalise on commercial opportunities
  • continue the shared service working that has saved millions and build on this to deliver even better value and savings to invest back into high quality services and local community initiatives
  • be better placed to offer extra support in many areas particularly working with communities to improve health and wellbeing
  • have the leadership available to work more effectively with partners and others to manage increased growth, jobs and challenges that will drive the local economy and benefit our communities
  • make sure we can provide more and the right kind of homes for our residents and cut unnecessary red tape for local businesses and traders
  • keep the same overall boundaries as the borough and district council our communities call home while having the long term stability to deliver high quality services.

Timetable for the initial stages of the review:

10 January 2018 to 12 February 2018: Engagement with local communities to understand the important considerations in their local area (for example which parishes work closely together, ‘natural’ boundaries).

February 2018 to March 2018: Councils analyse responses to the survey and draft potential options for warding.

March 2018: Engagement on the councils draft ward proposals West Suffolk Council - electoral review consultation.

Early April 2018: Councils consider feedback and update ward proposals.

April 2018: The final council proposals are considered by Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils. These may not be final proposals and could form a range of options if we feel it more appropriate to do so. Proposals submitted to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Summer 2018: If an order to create West Suffolk Council is issued, LGBCE will then meet to consider the draft proposals put forward by the councils and any other people who wish to make submissions. The LGBCE will then put forward a draft proposal themselves, and submit this for public consultation throughout the summer. Final patterns will be published in October for consideration by Parliament.

Electorate forecast

As part of the review process we have been asked to produce a five-year electorate forecast. Preparing electorate forecasts is not a science and assumptions have to be made and applied consistently. Using an agreed methodology, the West Suffolk electorate is forecast to be 131,501 at December 2023.

The new West Suffolk Council will be represented by 64 district councillors (eight fewer than the current arrangements for Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils) and will require a new warding structure which achieves electoral equality by having a ratio of 2,055 (+ or - 10%) electors to each councillor.

Background information:

More information

Review of electoral wards

The West Suffolk Council - electoral review consultation has now closed. You can find out more about the proposed changes: