Council agrees next steps for west Suffolk future

13 Jun 2017

St Edmundsbury Borough Council logo

Creating a new single council for west Suffolk could better drive prosperity and meet future challenges facing local communities according to a new report.

After considering the draft business case for the creation of a new single council members of St Edmundsbury Borough Council tonight, Tuesday, agreed the proposals should be looked at.

Councillors at Forest Heath District Council will discuss the draft business case tomorrow, Wednesday. If they agree, then a period of public and stakeholder engagement will be held and proposals looked at in detail which will inform further work on the business case.

Already Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council have proved that sharing services work - having achieved savings of £4 million every year.

After debating the draft business case members agreed that the authorities should build on their shared success of working together and explore the best way to meet future challenges. The draft business case outlined how a new single council could mean an even better ability to continue to deliver services while driving growth, jobs, supporting and investing in local communities. The business case also suggested that extra efficiencies could be found saving around a further £300,000 every year.

The leaders of both Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Councils had proposed the idea which was backed unanimously at a special joint meeting of both cabinets.

Councillors agreed with the Cabinet recommendation that a member group be set up made up of councillors to look at some of the issues that would need to be resolved.

Members made it clear this is not about reducing services but making sure the new Council is the right size to still deliver local solutions but also have a large and unified voice to champion communities nationally.

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: “The business case is clear that there are real benefits to be had for our communities and businesses by creating one single council. I welcome the decision by members tonight to now progress this and now engage with the public, business and local partners as well as look at the issues in more detail. 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 investment in our vibrant communities.”

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.

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