Labour pledges to fight merger proposal

IPSWICH Labour Party will “strongly oppose” radical plans to reduce the number of districts in Suffolk to plug a �100million spending black hole.The leaders of Suffolk's county and district councils have received a report suggesting that to save money, services and authorities could be merged, and that there should be greater partnership working with the police and health services.

IPSWICH Labour Party will “strongly oppose” radical plans to reduce the number of districts in Suffolk to plug a �100million spending black hole.

The leaders of Suffolk's county and district councils have received a report suggesting that to save money, services and authorities could be merged, and that there should be greater partnership working with the police and health services.

Reporting on behalf of the county's senior officers, Ipswich chief executive James Hehir says: “We are seeking to shrink the public sector as a whole in Suffolk through collaboration.

“Wherever possible, we will redesign services to meet customer need at lower cost for taxpayers. We need fast change but we need to agree a common message for staff to overcome fear and suspicion about takeovers and job losses.”

But the borough's Labour leader David Ellesmere rejects the idea. “We have not fought against the unitary plans for a greater Ipswich to cave into this solution.

“If spending has to be cut by up to a third, the number of teachers, nurses, and other public sector employees in Suffolk will be decimated. This is the nightmare vision of the future under a Conservative government.”

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If Suffolk's seven districts - Ipswich, Babergh, Suffolk Coastal, Waveney, Mid Suffolk, St Edmundsbury, and Forest Heath - accept the plan, and the necessary legislation is passed, a staffing merger would be implemented in 2012 and full constitutional merger would start from April 1 2015.

District and county services which could be combined include emergency planning, internal audit, building control, waste management, IT support, procurement, registrar services - births, marriages and deaths - countryside management, pool cars, health and safety, tourism, marketing, economic development, regulatory services - trading standards, licensing, environmental health - young people's community initiatives, and building maintenance and security.

Suffolk Coastal and Waveney already share a chief executive and a head of planning and any merger into larger districts would lead to senior officers being made redundant.

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