Mixed reaction to proposed new councils

A NEW authority encompassing Ipswich and Felixstowe will mean people paying less in tax and getting better services, it was claimed today.

Neil Puffett

A NEW authority encompassing Ipswich and Felixstowe will mean people paying less in tax and getting better services, it was claimed today.

As revealed by The Evening Star yesterday, boundary chiefs are proposing a new south Suffolk authority - dubbed “North Haven” - which would extend from the Orwell/Stour estuary to the Deben estuary.

It includes the Shotley peninsula as far west as the A12 - including the villages of Capel St Mary and Stratford St Mary as well as Bramford, Sproughton, Claydon, Barham and the Blakenhams.

The rest of Suffolk will be governed by a second authority apart from Lowestoft which would be incorporated in a super council covering the whole of Norfolk.

Liz Harsant, leader of Ipswich council, said the new authority would mean less duplication and subsequently lower council taxes for residents. Meanwhile it would give the area greater power to obtain key grants and deliver important projects.

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She said: “I think people's council taxes will go down.

“There is a much bigger base for collection so one would hope any increases can be kept below inflation.

“The whole idea of unitary is to improve services and save money for the taxpayer.”

Andrew Cann, leader of Ipswich's Lib Dem group, actively lobbied for a haven unitary authority along the lines of the draft proposal.

He said the benefit of such a move will be threefold.

“Things will be simpler as people will know exactly where the buck stops because there will be one council running all the services in the area.

“Taxes will be lower as there will be less officers and less councillors providing the same or better levels of service for less money.

“Thirdly the big strategic decisions that need to be made for south Suffolk area are going to be made closer to home and with their interest in mind, rather than the 700,000 right across Suffolk.

Deputy leader of Ipswich Council, John Carnall, said Ipswich and Felixstowe were a good fit to join together.

He said: “I think there's a logical fit between the two towns.

“There are lots of people who live in Ipswich and work in Felixstowe and the other way round.

“I think on the whole this is to be welcomed.”

Commenting on the draft proposals, Max Caller, chair of the Boundary Committee for England, said: “These proposals take a fresh look at local government in Norfolk and Suffolk.

“We've spent a lot of time in the county talking to individuals and councils, and we think these proposals have the potential to offer people in Norfolk and Suffolk stronger local government capable of providing better and more efficient services to meet the new challenges that will face them.”

Do you support a new council covering Ipswich and Felixstowe? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

SUFFOLK'S top chief will be out of a job if today's proposals for two unitary authorities in Suffolk are followed through, it emerged today.

Should Suffolk County Council be carved up, prospective chief executives will have to apply for the new posts.

The county' council's chief executive only started work at the authority in April on a controversial salary of £218,000.

Kevan Lim, deputy leader of the county's Labour group, said it is unlikely she could command that sort of salary to take up the helm at one of the new councils.

He said: “The two authorities in the draft proposal are significantly smaller than Suffolk County Council.

“Normally the chief executive's salary is based on a range that reflects population.

“The county council shouldn't have been paying £220,000 for Mrs Hill in the first place so there is no way either of the two new unitary could be big enough to justify that kind of salary.

“In any case chief executive jobs have to be advertised and competed for so she wouldn't automatically be entitled to one of those positions.”

Andrew Cann, leader of Ipswich's Lib Dem Group, said he felt Mrs Hill would be unlikely to get a job heading up the new Ipswich and Felixstowe unitary.

He said: “Her prospect of being chief executive and running anything in Suffolk are nil from my point of view.

“That is not a reflection on her but a reflection on her salary.

“I don't think you will find a councillor in south Suffolk prepared to pay her what she is earning.”

Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council and the man who took the decision to appoint Mrs Hill, said he would not comment on an individual officer's career.

He said: “She has got a high-powered job to do in taking us through this turmoil and making sure our services are in tact.”

A NUMBER of jobs are likely to be lost as a result of the unitary shake-up, it was claimed today.

Suffolk County Council is the biggest employer in Suffolk, with more than 20,000 employees but if the draft proposals come to fruition it would see several thousand of these transfer to a new haven authority.

John Carnall, deputy leader of Ipswich Council, said should an Ipswich and Felixstowe council get the go-ahead the majority of staff working for councils affected will remain in place under the new authority.

However he said he believed it was likely a number of job losses are unavoidable as some roles are duplicated among the existing tiers of local government.

He said: “At the end of the day it will all depend on the rules laid down by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

“Clearly there are bound to be job losses at chief executive and senior executive level because there's not going to be as many of them.

“I suspect the vast majority of staff will be transferred into the new authority in relevant jobs.

“Existing employees will clearly have priority before external people are taken in.”

THERE will now be a 12-week public consultation, during which people will be able to give their views on the proposals to the Boundary Committee.

The Committee has not finalised its proposal for Suffolk and will place some weight on responses received before submitting final advice to the Secretary of State.

The period for responses closes on September 26.

The committee will then consider responses before making final recommendations to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government by December 31.

Responses to the draft proposals can be made by filling in an online form at www.boundarycommittee.org.uk or writing to:

Review Manager (Norfolk and Suffolk Review), The Boundary Committee for England, Trevelyan House, Great Peter Street, London SW1P 2HW. E-mail: reviews@boundarycommittee.org.uk.

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