Ministers back Ipswich power bid

BOSSES at the borough's Grafton House headquarters were today looking forward to being in full control of Ipswich after the town's bid for unitary status won ministerial backing.

BOSSES at the borough's Grafton House headquarters were today looking forward to being in full control of Ipswich after the town's bid for unitary status won ministerial backing.

The bid to take over all council functions in the town has been shortlisted by the government's Department of Communities and Local Government.

A final decision on whether to allow a unitary council to be formed will be made in July - but officials and councillors are confident they have jumped all the major hurdles.

Ipswich council chief executive James Hehir said: “I am absolutely delighted. We have now jumped Beecher's Brook and are galloping towards the finishing post.


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“There will now be wide consultation in the town but the government has accepted the principal of our unitary bid and we would have to make a big mistake to lose out now.”

The news that Ipswich was on the shortlist came at the end of an anxious four days for everyone connected with the bid.

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An announcement from Whitehall had been expected on Thursday and Friday at the end of last week.

When it did not come, everyone at the borough had been expecting an announcement yesterday.

But after a last-minute intervention by chancellor Gordon Brown the final shortlist of 16 authorities was announced today.

Six of these bids are competing against each other - so that leaves a maximum of 13 possible new unitary councils and it is thought the government will allow between eight and all 13 to go ahead when the final decision is announced at the beginning of July.

Local government Minister Phil Woolas said that if the proposals were accepted, savings of around £200 million a year could be made by transferring frontline services or reducing council tax bills.

He said restructuring would also prevent unnecessary inefficiency and duplication of services.

The government has been examining 26 proposals submitted by local authorities earlier this year.

Mr Woolas said: “The bids that local authorities submitted show that they are up for improving the services they offer to their communities by making them more responsive, effective and efficient.”

The successful proposals will now be subject to a 12-week government consultation before a final decision is made in July.

There will now be consultations with Ipswich residents, businesses, and other organisations over the next three months.

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