Council restructure prompts funding fears

A last-minute call has been made to Whitehall to abandon the reorganisation of local government in Suffolk amid claims it could starve the most vulnerable groups of funding.

SUFFOLK A last-minute call has been made to Whitehall to abandon the reorganisation of local government in Suffolk amid claims it could starve the most vulnerable groups of funding.

Suffolk Preservation Society says the Boundary Committee for England has failed to show how the new structure would make significant financial savings without cutting front line services which are vital to many sections of the county's community.

The committee has put forward alternative plans for unitary councils in the county - One Suffolk which would merge the county and seven district authorities, and a two-council option of one based on Ipswich-Felixstowe-Shotley and a Greater Suffolk for the rest of the county.

In a letter to the Communities Secretary John Denham, Simon Cairns, director of the society, wrote: “We remain wholly unconvinced of the benefits that any unitary local government structure would bring in a rural area such as Suffolk.

“We live in an extremely diverse county to which the one size fits all mantra simply does not apply.

“The Boundary Committee insists this new system of government will bring huge financial savings. We wholeheartedly disagree and feel the costs of introducing unitary authorities could only be met through a reduction in front line services.

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“This approach is cynical, short sighted and unsustainable. As well as reducing the quality of local services on which so many of the more vulnerable members of our community rely, it will only exacerbate the long-term financial position of local government in Suffolk, in turn putting more pressure on taxpayers.”

Mr Cairns says the current structure of local government in Suffolk is better placed to serve communities effectively because it keeps decision-making at a local level and helps empower individuals and communities.

Supporters of local government restructuring believe reorganisation will bring economies of scale - vital at a time of public spending cuts.

Mr Denham is expected to make a decision later this month.

What's your view on the reorganisation of local government in Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk