New plans for a West Suffolk Council has local support
19 Sep 2017
A new report says innovative proposals to create a new West Suffolk council will drive prosperity, jobs and meet future challenges as well as having local support.
Both Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough Councils, which would be replaced by the new authority, will discuss the report next week.
The business case has been informed by a programme of engagement which has shown strong support from residents, businesses and public services.
The business case suggests the new council could 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 ongoing 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.
A new independent poll, carried out by ComRes, says 70% of residents support the creation of a new West Suffolk Council.
The engagement process was designed to inform residents, businesses, partners and stakeholders of the proposals as well as giving people an opportunity to have their say if they wished.
More than 160 partners, representatives, local organisations and councils were contacted directly to explain the draft business case. People were also asked to find out more through the media and social media.
Residents could also find out more through dedicated web pages and leave comments if they wished. The results of the engagement will now help councillors as part of their decision making at meetings held by both authorities on 26 September (St Edmundsbury Borough Council) and 27 September (Forest Heath District Council) when the business case will be discussed.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council Leader, Councillor John Griffiths, said: “Once again we are at the forefront of transforming how local Government can better support communities and businesses with a strong and compelling argument to take the next step. The tremendous benefits for the communities we serve and the support for us to create a new single council is overwhelming. The business case clearly shows creating a new single council will give us a better ability to drive the local economy, jobs and prosperity in West Suffolk. We have listened to local residents and organisations who agree that structure should not get in the way of providing services, opportunity and continued investment in our vibrant communities. In addition neighbouring authorities, such as in Cambridgeshire, are already asking to meet as they see how closer working with a larger authority can bring greater investment in our area.”
Forest Heath District Councillor James Waters, said: “Doing what is right for our communities is at the heart of what we do and the business case is clear there are real benefits to be had. The support we have had from residents, businesses and local organisations is compelling and will be taken into consideration as we debate the business case. It is clear staying still is not an option if we are to meet future challenges. A new council will mean we can better champion our communities both locally and nationally as well as continuing to deliver high quality services. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to understand more about the plans and make their views known.”
Among the support that has been given includes Suffolk County and District councils, Cambridge City Council, Norfolk County Council, the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk and Braintree District Council, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and The Greater Cambridge, Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership, The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, The Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), West Suffolk Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group NHS.
The ComRes telephone poll, which is 95% accurate (with a margin of error of plus or minus around 3%) and proportionally representative of the electorate used the gold standard procedures for the industry. It also found:
- When first asked the majority of local adults (65%) say they are favourable towards it – unfavourable (19%). When provided with more information on the proposal and its impact, 70% were favourable and 22% unfavourable.
- Almost all residents (97%) surveyed say it will be important for the new single District-level Council to continue the delivery of important services to local people – the most of any objective tested. At least nine in ten adults say that allowing the council to better plan for the future, or ensuring the new council is better equipped to meet the future challenges facing local government is an important objective for it to achieve (93% and 90% say this respectively).
- Almost nine in ten (87%) residents say that strengthening West Suffolk’s political voice in the region and nationally is an important objective to achieve. Delivering further efficiency savings in the budget of around £800,000 per year is important (81%) - lowest of all the objectives listed.
- Residents are most likely to say they are neutral or positive (34% for both) towards a prospective reduction in the number of councillors in West Suffolk.
- A majority of adults in West Suffolk say they are not concerned with the proposal to create a new single District level Council (54%) while 42% expressed concerns.
- Some 63% of adults say none of the groups tested would be negatively impacted by the creation of a single District-level Council for West Suffolk.