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Suffolk MP Jo Churchill calls for councils to be given major shake-up

PUBLISHED: 09:24 01 January 2018 | UPDATED: 09:24 01 January 2018

Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

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With Suffolk’s councils facing more tough years of austerity, Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill has called for a major debate on the future of local government in the county.

She has called on the government and councils to look again at bringing in unitary government for Suffolk – probably split between the west and the east of the country.

The MP made the call as two large “super-districts” are being formed to run council services in east and west Suffolk.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the county, attempts to merge Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils have effectively been torpedoed by members from Babergh.

Mrs Churchill did not want to focus directly on Babergh’s problems because it is outside her constituency – but the Bury St Edmunds parliamentary seat does contain Stowmarket and Needham Market in Mid Suffolk and she said councillors from there were very frustrated about the merger problems.

She said felt the current structure of local government in Suffolk was unsustainable: “It has to be streamlined. We are spending too much on administration with different layers and not enough on actual services that people need.

“That has to change and we need to have a really good look at what could happen.”

Mrs Churchill accepted that some councillors would be reluctant to embrace change because it could put their positions – and allowances – at risk.

For that reason she felt it might eventually be necessary for the government to become involved and press the case for reform.

The strengthened east and west Suffolk councils could well be a basis for a new form of local government – but Mrs Churchill said that whatever happened there needed to be much more co-operation across geographic divides.

She said: “In the west of the county we are next to Cambridgeshire, which has extra devolved powers with the new mayor. I want Suffolk to be in a similar position – but most of all 
I want to ensure that the benefits Cambridgeshire enjoys do not end at the county border.

“We’ve heard enough about cross-border trade recently. Well 
I want to ensure there’s no border between people doing business in Suffolk and people doing business in Cambridgeshire.”

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