County in trouble if disaster strikes

DOING nothing is "not an option" today if Suffolk wants a serious chance of coping with a terrorist attack or other large-scale emergency.That is the message from a Suffolk council chief executive who has today spoken about concerns that we are not prepared for a terror strike or civil emergency.

DOING nothing is "not an option" today if Suffolk wants a serious chance of coping with a terrorist attack or other large-scale emergency.

That is the message from a Suffolk council chief executive who has today spoken about concerns that we are not prepared for a terror strike or civil emergency.

And so council taxpayers could be asked to stump up hundreds of thousands of pounds to put the situation right.

Andrew Good, chief executive of Mid Suffolk District Council, is preparing to brief his colleagues on the lack of planning for emergencies in the county at a meeting next week.

He said: "A more consistent and better funded approach is needed.

"Historically, the funding of emergency planning has been modest and has relied upon an inconsistent and fragmented approach.

Most Read

"Whether incidents occur once every ten years or once a century, preparations still have to be made.

"The threat posed by global terrorism has added a compelling factor to the need to plan for and manage civil emergencies and it is now considered a do nothing option is not acceptable."

Suffolk's local authorities work under an unusual system where half of the funding from the government is handed down from the county council to district councils.

A review has recently slammed this approach saying it "frustrates common progress and wastes resources through duplication and lack of co-ordination."

Mr Good's concerns are matched by Suffolk County Council which agrees local authorities should be working in a more united fashion.

It has responded to a government announcement that local authorities will be given double the amount to spend on emergency planning by discussing the potential for all the councils in Suffolk to work under one umbrella, headed by a county emergency planning officer.

Bryony Rudkin, leader of the county council, said: "The council agrees things need to be co-ordinated better and working on a countywide basis, taking into account regional and national plans, would be more effective."

Changing the structure of emergency planning in Suffolk will cost £600,000 and all councils would be asked to increase their contribution.

There is now £384,000 spent each year in the county, £221,786 of which comes from the government.

Mid Suffolk district council pays the lowest amount. It only contributes £512 on top of the grant it receives from the government compared to Babergh district council's £4,792, Ipswich borough council's £30,662 and Suffolk Coastal district council's £31,684.

Suffolk's problems have also recently been highlighted in an Audit Commission assessment. In a traffic light rating system it gave all emergency planning areas in Suffolk red or amber 'warnings'.

Faults in Suffolk's system include managers at the councils not understanding their responsibilities, inadequate staff training and poor arrangements for informing the public.

Ken Seager, deputy chief fire officer, led the recent review. He said: "In terms of effectiveness and efficiency I have no doubt a team would be better if it was centrally organised.

"In principle I don't think any of the councils disagree."

Suffolk Coastal and Babergh councils are also due to discuss a new structure but both have expressed an agreement for the principles.

Reg Hartles, chairman of Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk (PACTS), said: "The cost of this sounds horrific to me.

"The councils are once again dreaming up ways to spend money and I would be interested to see what the expense would provide."

Mid Suffolk district council is due to discuss the proposals at its executive committee meeting on Tuesday, September 6.

What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter