Councils agree major step forward for west Suffolk future

14 Jun 2017

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Plans to create a new single council for west Suffolk to better drive prosperity and meet future challenges have taken a major step forward.

After considering the findings of a draft business case Forest Heath District Council tonight, Wednesday, agreed proposals for a new council should be looked at.

The move follows a similar decision made by St Edmundsbury Borough Council last night, Tuesday.

A period of public and stakeholder engagement will now be held and proposals looked at in detail which will inform further work on the final 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.

Members from both councils have now 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 previous 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.

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. A new single council would put us in a much better position to drive jobs, manage growth and face the financial challenges we face. 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. The decision by Council is a major step forward in creating that new single authority.”

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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