End of a regional dream

REGIONAL government in England is dead. Thank goodness.After last week's humiliating rejection of the concept by the voters of the north east, the government has scrapped plans for similar referenda in Yorkshire and the North West.

REGIONAL government in England is dead. Thank goodness.

After last week's humiliating rejection of the concept by the voters of the north east, the government has scrapped plans for similar referenda in Yorkshire and the North West.

And there is now no prospect of those of us in the East of England ever having to vote on the ludicrous proposal to have a directly-elected regional government in Cambridge.

But I do hope this doesn't mean that we're saddled with the current structure of local government for ever and a day.

It remains confusing, expensive, and frankly illogical.

Why on earth should the provision of sheltered housing be the responsibility of one group of elected councillors working with one group of council officers while the provision of home helps to the elderly is handled by another group of councillors supported by totally different officers?

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I'm one of the few people - I think - who understands how councils work. But I haven't a clue why they work like that!

What is needed is a complete re-think of the way local government works - with one group of councillors responsible for all local services.

That way you won't have the situation where people ring the borough council to complain about their child's school to be told to ring the county council.

What is needed is a complete shake-up. Get rid of Ipswich council, Mid Suffolk, Babergh and Suffolk Coastal.

Then abolish the county council.

Then the government should create a greater Ipswich extending to Martlesham, Felixstowe, Shotley, Capel, Claydon, and Westerfield. This could sit alongside new East and West Suffolk county councils based at Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds.

A new Suffolk-wide fire authority could also be created to sit alongside the Suffolk Police Authority - or they could even be combined into one Suffolk emergency authority although that is probably too radical an idea for anyone to contemplate!

This kind of reform sounds radical now - especially with a government terrified of any kind of constitutional reform - but logic suggests it will have to happen within the next decade!

I FEEL slightly as if I've emerged into a different universe - Britain has suffered a serious rail tragedy but there hasn't been an hysterical over-reaction by the national press or “industry experts.”

True, the Rail Maritime and Transport Union tried to raise the stakes into the realms of farce by suggesting that the government should spend billions replacing every level crossing with a bridge or tunnel.

But that was soon dismissed by even the most Cassandra-like commentators who pointed out that if the government had that much money to spend they'd save far more lives by putting it into building new hospitals or health centres.

That seems a very sensible idea - fortunately we've had no major rail accidents in this area for many years, and rail remains the safest form of transport.

The fact that seven people losing their lives in a rail accident made headline news for three consecutive days in most newspapers shows just how rare this is.

I'M getting more and more optimistic about the possibility of a university coming to Ipswich. It will be great for the character and culture of the town.

It is also the great hope for the Regent - once there are thousands of University students living and working in the town it's bound to give shows there a kick-start.

But the once group of people who don't seem that thrilled at the idea of a uni coming here are those you might expect to be most enthusiastic - teenagers.

“I'm not fussed about whether Ipswich gets a university or not,” one teenager told me.

“When I go to university I don't want it to be in Ipswich - I don't want to live with my parents when I'm a student.”

Somehow I think they'll still want to be within striking distance in an emergency!

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