This was a big week for local government with the latest Government settlement for local councils.

I have seen a number of councils raising concerns about what was announced and it won’t surprise readers to know that I have had a number of conversations with important figures in local government to gain a full picture of what this all means for services in Ipswich and Suffolk.

The biggest concern relates to “upper tier” authorities that have the biggest budgets and are responsible for crucial services such as highways, adult social care and education (including SEND).

The reality is that even the most prudently run local authorities are now struggling. The demand placed on their budgets by SEND and adult social care is growing exponentially. Unless there is some sort of reckoning, I fear that we will see more and more councils across the country failing.

It is hardly surprising that most of the councils we have seen hitting the buffers first have been Labour-led authorities where sound financial management has hardly been the order of the day. However, the sad reality that it is likely it won’t be long before even councils that have a record of acting responsibly and have built up significant reserves are in trouble as well.

This is an issue that can no longer be ducked.

I have long felt that major local government reform will eventually become a necessity due to these financial pressures.

So often it has been a thorny issue that has been avoided because of the lack of consensus over the desirability of unitary authorities. One way or another change is on the way, the present models and structures of local government are clearly unsustainable.

Personally, my view has been for some time that two tier local government doesn’t work for Ipswich. I feel that Ipswich would be far better served by having just one council. This would cost less, be more efficient and more accountable.

It seems that not a week goes by without confusion and blurred lines of responsibility between the borough and the county councils.

Time and time again I see evidence of confusion and duplication as a consequence of the two-tier set up in Ipswich.

I remember over the summer we had grass verges in Ipswich growing out of control, due to the bureaucracy associated with the responsibility for their upkeep moving from the Borough to the County Council. A year or so ago, I remember bashing my head against a metaphorical brick wall.

I was trying to get litter on the grass slope at the junction between Burrel Road and Belstead Road cleaned up.

There was confusion about who was responsible for it as the County Council owned the land but the Borough Council had responsibility for litter picking.

So often this sort of confusion comes about as a consequence of blurred lines of responsibility leading to inertia and buck passing.

I also think there is a democratic argument for why unitary authorities are better. The local Councillor becomes a one-stop shop for democratic accountability.

I remember being a district councillor and having to explain when highways issues were raised with me, that it wasn’t actually my responsibility but the responsibility of the local county councillor. Again, this can lead to blurred lines of accountability that don’t aid our local democracy.

My prediction is that this debate will be coming to us soon. My preference would be for a unitary council centred in Ipswich, most likely a Greater Ipswich Council.

It is hard to see the Government agreeing to one under the existing Borough boundaries as the population simply isn’t big enough.

This is a debate of profound significance that will have major implications for the delivery of vital public services in the Town. Whatever happens it is vital that what is suggested works for the Town and all its residents, particularly the most vulnerable.

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish all my constituents a very merry Christmas!