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Green politicians say a “cosy leaders club” is running Suffolk councils

PUBLISHED: 14:29 07 February 2018 | UPDATED: 14:29 07 February 2018

Public sector leaders from across Suffolk regularly come together  last month they met Southwark chief executive Eleanor Kelly to discuss lessons from the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Public sector leaders from across Suffolk regularly come together last month they met Southwark chief executive Eleanor Kelly to discuss lessons from the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Archant

Suffolk’s council leaders have denied they have formed a secretive group controlling millions of pounds of public money through behind-the-scenes deals.

The Suffolk Leaders’ Group is made up of the leaders of the seven district or borough councils in the county, County Council leader Colin Noble and Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore.

As well as being a forum for co-ordinating policies, it can also allocate some money raised through business rates in the county for projects of strategic importance.

It has recently allocated money towards the study into proposals for a Northern Relief Road for Ipswich and for a new by-pass for Sudbury.

It is the Sudbury by-pass project that prompted Green Party councillors from Suffolk authorities to brand the group a “cosy leaders’ club.”

Green county councillor Robert Lindsay has asked county council leader Colin Noble to make the meetings open to the public.

He said: “This body, comprising the county’s eight male local authority leaders and the male Police and Crime Commissioner is apparently making spending decisions on tax payers’ behalf, yet the first most elected councillors hear about it is when they read about it in the newspapers. It may be cosy, but running a secret club is a good way to destroy the reputation of the public sector.”

The leaders’ group is chaired by former Babergh Council leader Jennie Jenkins who conducts the meetings but does not have a vote. Eight of its members are Conservative and they sit alongside Ipswich’s Labour leader David Ellesmere.

She said: “Suffolk’s councils agreed, in public meetings in 2012, to pool the money that’s collected from businesses and for the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders group to decide how a proportion of that is invested in projects to benefit the whole of Suffolk.

“This decision pre-dates Robert Lindsey’s time as a councillor which might explain why he’s unaware.

“Suffolk is recognised for being very forward-thinking in pooling business rate income and using it to benefit residents across the entire county.

“At the last meeting we agreed to review how the group works to make sure we’re continuing to deliver results for Suffolk.”

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