Council shakeup: Ipswich happy with news

BOSSES at both Ipswich and Suffolk today claimed they were happy after the latest proposals to reshape local government in the county were published.

BOSSES at both Ipswich and Suffolk today claimed they were happy after the latest proposals to reshape local government in the county were published.

The Boundary Committee has now given equal status to One Suffolk and its plan, originally outlined last summer, for the county to be divided up into two unitaries - one covering Ipswich, Felixstowe and surrounding parishes, and for a Suffolk rural authority responsible for the remainder of the county.

Liz Harsant, leader of Ipswich borough council, said she was pleased the Ipswich-Felixstowe unitary - also known as North Haven - was still in the running.

“I am delighted Lowestoft is to remain in Suffolk. It made no sense to move it and most in the county were totally opposed,” said Mrs Harsant.

However David Ellesmere, the leader of the Labour group on Ipswich council, said: “We are concerned the Boundary Committee is still presenting us with a choice between the unpalatable North Haven and the unacceptable Unitary Suffolk.

“ Only an urban Ipswich unitary council can best look after the needs of Ipswich people. If the Boundary Committee isn't prepared to recommend a unitary Ipswich then we'd be better off staying as we are.”

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At the county, bosses and councillors were delighted that the One Suffolk option had now been given the same status as the North Haven proposal - especially as Lowestoft has been restored to Suffolk.

Babergh council leader Nick Ridley said: “Babergh is a firm fan of the principle of unitary local government for Suffolk and in particular, for the two-unitary option, so we welcome the main thrust of the Boundary Committee's recommendations.

“However, we would have liked to have seen more consideration given to the boundary between the two being moved further westwards which, especially with the proposed inclusion of Lowestoft into Rural Suffolk, would lead to a better balance between the two proposed authorities.”

Today's announcement from the Boundary Committee is a blow to council in West Suffolk, which had hoped that their plans to split Suffolk into East, West and Greater Ipswich unitaries would received favourably.

In a joint statement, the leader of Waveney, St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils said: “We are shocked that in the face of clear public support for the inclusion of our proposals the Boundary Committee has brazenly ignored the public's desire for a proper consultation on a local government system which would be focused on areas each with their own, very different identities and economies.”

The new consultation is as a result of the Committee adapting its process as a result of High Court judgments that allowed it to publish more than one proposal for consultation.

Max Caller, chairman of the Boundary Committee for England said: “We want people to look carefully at what we're proposing and then tell us what they think and why. Any evidence we receive from this stage will add to that which we obtained in our consultation last year.”

The public has until May 14 to comment on the revised options. The Committee will issue its report in July for the Secretary of State Hazel Blears to consider over the summer. If she backs the final recommendations, orders will be laid before Parliament and the first elections will be in May 2010.

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