Authority's future in limbo
TALK about headless chickens! Councillors and senior officers are still in an almighty spin over last week's announcement that the government is having another look at the whole question of unitary authorities.
TALK about headless chickens!
Councillors and senior officers are still in an almighty spin over last week's announcement that the government is having another look at the whole question of unitary authorities.
Labour councillors in Ipswich and elsewhere in Suffolk are confident that last week's announcement heralds a bright new dawn for local authorities across the region.
They can see the day when a Labour controlled greater Ipswich, a Labour controlled greater Norwich, and a Labour controlled Yartoft (Waveney and Gt Yarmouth) are separated from each other only by Tory controlled rural Suffolk and rural Norfolk.
The logic of splitting up the councils in this way is compelling - but there would be so many objections that it would take a decade to implement any such proposal.
The blood-letting would be phenomenal. I can see even now the Kesgrave Liberation Army launching guerrilla raids on east Ipswich and ripping up the roses from the gardens of the Broke Hall estate.
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Let's face it, anyone with any sense knows that Kesgrave, Rushmere, Pinewood and Purdis Farm really are part of Ipswich.
But say that to any residents of these communities and it's a bit like telling them they have bad breath! They've spent all their lives avoiding paying rates or council tax for the services they use in Ipswich and they don't want to start doing that now!
Hopefully eventually the government, of whatever shade it is at the time, will eventually have the guts to tell these housing estates that they have to go in with Ipswich whatever they think.
But it will be a long time before anyone in Whitehall plucks up that amount of courage!
Back in the here and now councillors who were looking forward to forming a new council in Ipswich next May are now faced with commonal-garden elections to prepare for.
The Labour Party were planning a big green push in the new year - that's one thing they will still be able to push ahead with.
They have some good ideas like dual litter bins in the town centre, like the blue and black bins at our homes. But I do wonder just how much enthusiasm there will be for the election campaign during the cold winter months.
They were planning a big blitz on the town in the run-up to the unitary elections, but will they find it easy to get teams of volunteers out canvassing on a cold February evening if there is only a third of the seats at Grafton House up for grabs?
And while things are edgy in and around Ipswich, life is even more tense in the offices of the small district councils around the county.
What future is there for authorities like Babergh, Mid Suffolk, and Suffolk Coastal?
Their political leaders had already effectively agreed to surrender much of their independence by signing up to the county's Pathfinder project.
Now it is clear these small authorities have no real future in the eyes of the government.
If the government does approve a “greater Ipswich” including Kesgrave, Martlesham Heath, Rushmere, and possibly the Felixstowe peninsula, where does that leave Suffolk Coastal?
Babergh could probably stand the loss of Pinewood, but if there is a major restructuring of local government in Suffolk now there will be no two-tier councils left.
But then, my betting is it will take so long to decide what to do with the councils that it will be many years and at least one general election before anything happens on the ground.
And in the meantime all the Ipswich councillors will go away and lick their wounds and all the Suffolk County Councillors from outside the town can preen themselves on a job well done.
SO HADLEIGH is going to be left pool-less when the tank finally gives up the ghost at some stage in the future.
That will be sad for the people of the town, but I can't help wondering if it's really the disaster many people seem to think.
It's not exactly as if Hadleigh residents are hundreds of miles away from a swimming pool.
There are pools at Ipswich, Colchester, Sudbury, and Stowmarket - all within 12 miles.
And dare I say they are all far better than the rather basic facilities in Hadleigh.
When it opened in 1971, Hadleigh Pool may have been the cats whisker, but things move on - and kids in particular expect more from their afternoon swim.
Yes there will be people in Hadleigh who don't want to have to travel to swim, but pools are expensive to operate and it really is unrealistic to have one in every market town in the county.
Let's face it the only people who use the Hadleigh pool are those who live within a couple of miles of the town.
If you live in Hintlesham or Capel wouldn't you rather swim at Crown Pools? If you live at Boxted or Kersey wouldn't you rather swim at the Kingfisher at Sudbury? If you live in Bildeston or Hitcham isn't Stowmarket a better pool? And if you live Stratford St Mary or Stoke by Nayland wouldn't you rather swim at Colchester?
In a perfect world we'd all have a pool at the bottom of our garden. But this isn't a perfect world - even for the residents of Hadleigh. When their pool does eventually fall apart let's not have weeping and wailing - but carry on swimming somewhere better.