Council shake-up in tatters after ruling

A SENSATIONAL High Court victory has today left proposals for the wholesale restructuring of local government in Suffolk in tatters.

A SENSATIONAL High Court victory has today left proposals for the wholesale restructuring of local government in Suffolk in tatters.

Suffolk Coastal, St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils challenged the Boundary Committee's decision not to consider a three unitary council solution in the local government review ordered two years ago by the Secretary of State.

Yesterday, they won the support of the High Court which said splitting Suffolk into three - an enlarged Ipswich, West and East unitaries - had been unfairly ignored.

The Boundary Committee was due to submit its final report to Communities and Local Government Secretary of State John Denham next Wednesday, which would have indicated which option should be given the go-ahead to replace the county and seven districts - a giant One Suffolk unitary or Ipswich-Felixstowe and Greater Suffolk councils.

The unitary process, which started when Ipswich's bid to go it alone from Suffolk was rejected by one of Mr Denham's predecessors Ruth Kelly as unworkable, has cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. Costs of the judicial review have been awarded against the Boundary Committee and the Secretary of State.

It is possible that Mr Denham could decide to consider the three-unitary option along with the Boundary Committee's recommendation.

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If the Parliamentary Orders are not laid by December, elections to any new authorities are unlikely to be held next year and the Conservative Party has already indicated that it would pull the plug on reorganisation if it wins the General Election.

Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, who supports the three council solution, said he was “very pleased” with the judgement.

Mr Gummer said splitting Suffolk east and west and enlarging Ipswich was the historically sensible way forward.

Mr Justice Foskett ruled that the Boundary Committee had broken rules of “straightforward fairness” and “simple good administration” in rejecting the pleas of the three councils.

Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council, who had backed the One Suffolk option, said: “We are all committed to working in partnership to deliver high quality services to the people of Suffolk.”

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