Joint Cabinet agree next steps for west Suffolk future

30 May 2017

A special joint cabinet meeting has agreed unanimously that plans to create a single council in west Suffolk now be looked at by all councillors.

The leaders of both Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Councils had proposed the idea to meet future challenges and better drive prosperity.

The decision was made today, Tuesday, at a special joint Cabinet meeting between the two authorities that the plans should now be formally discussed by both full councils in June.

Already both councils successfully share services – saving £4 million a year.

Cabinet members agreed that the authorities should build on this success and explore the best way to meet future challenges. Members thought a single council could mean and an even better ability to continue to deliver services while driving growth, jobs and supporting local communities.

The meeting agreed officers to carry out work to test the preferred option of a single council against alternatives. This would lead to a business case being created for both Councils to also consider.

The Cabinets also recommended a steering group be made up of councillors to look at some of the issues that would need to be solved.

Cabinet members made it clear this is not about reducing services but making sure the area is the right size to still deliver local solutions but also have a large and unified voice to argue nationally for communities.

The changes, which would be based on current district and borough council services and boundaries, would mean an even greater ability to:

  • Deliver services vital for our communities while at the same time drive 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 health, need for 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.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council Leader, Councillor John Griffiths, said: “I am pleased our cabinets have had the opportunity to sit down together and start the process of formally looking at the benefits of a single council. We have already shown that sharing services across both councils not only saves millions of pounds but brings real benefits to the communities we serve. That has given us the firm financial footing and now a golden opportunity to look at how to even better meet future challenges, drive growth and prosperity while continuing to deliver high quality services. I think most people care more that we are delivering services in the most effective way than they do about Council structures, boundaries and processes. They want us to be forward thinking and not let structure get in the way of providing jobs, opportunity and continued vibrant communities.”

Forest Heath District Council Leader, Councillor James Waters, said: “Working with our communities is at the heart of what we do and will continue to be a priority. A Single Council could give us the opportunity to not only be a stronger unified voice to champion our area but still remain small enough to find local tailored solutions with residents, groups and parish councils with your local member at the forefront. Our communities want to make sure we are constantly looking to improve and transform the way we work. That we not only deliver services but help create jobs, support residents and drive the local economy. Our Cabinets have given a clear message that we now should look at this to bring real benefits for the communities we serve.”

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 boundaries as the Borough and District Council our communities call home while having the long term stability to deliver high quality services.

Initially the Cabinet of both councils will have to agree to proposals going forward which would then need to be agreed by each Full Council.

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