Change at top - won't stop Ipswich's bid

A POSSIBLE cabinet shake-up when Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister next month is unlikely to affect Ipswich's bid for unitary status, The Evening Star has learned.

A POSSIBLE cabinet shake-up when Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister next month is unlikely to affect Ipswich's bid for unitary status, The Evening Star has learned.

Mr Brown takes over the country's top job on June 27 while a final decision on whether unitary status will be granted to the town will not be taken until early July.

It has been reported that Mr Brown is likely to carry out a major cabinet revamp and the possibility of Ruth Kelly, current minister for communities and local government, being moved on has led to parallels being drawn with the shelving of controversial police reforms last year.

When Charles Clarke was sacked as Home Secretary in May 2006 his plans for regional police forces were immediately put on hold.

Government sources have told the Star that a similar situation is unlikely to arise as Gordon Brown has already made clear that a strong role for local government, of which unitary status is an important part, is central to his plans.

A spokesman for The Department of Communities and Local Government said: “We are fully committed to giving councils the opportunity for unitary status and our consultation is continuing as planned.

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“The acid test for any proposal is whether it reduces council tax bills, improves services and community engagement, strengthens leadership and enjoys local support.

“This is the basis on which final decisions will be made.”

One group undoubtedly hoping Gordon Brown's rise to power could prompt a change of direction is Suffolk County Council which is strongly opposing Ipswich Borough Council's bid for unitary status.

Councillor Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “In politics anything is possible.

“If the government decides not to proceed with any of the unitary council proposals, we will still continue our work with the county's district and borough councils to reduce costs, make efficiency savings and above all, improve services.

“We hope that Ipswich Borough Council would join us in this work, as these are the things that really matter to people in Suffolk, not tinkering with local government structures."

Do you think Ipswich should go unitary? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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