Reform must be total

JOHN Prescott's giant empire in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is preparing for the next big reorganisation of local government. Officials are briefing their friends in the Westminster lobby that next year's council elections could be postponed.

JOHN Prescott's giant empire in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is preparing for the next big reorganisation of local government.

Officials are briefing their friends in the Westminster lobby that next year's council elections could be postponed.

Councils desperately need to be reformed. It is frankly ludicrous to have two levels of authorities in most of the country.

Only council employees and political anoraks know how they work - and I do have to in the latter category - and elections are meaningless because people almost always vote on national issues anyway.


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So councils need to be reformed and we must go to a single tier.

But that change must not be rushed - and it is appalling that the government is saying that any change should be based on current local authority boundaries.

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That is preposterous - in Suffolk at any rate.

Senior councillors and officials at Ipswich are saying that they are content to go with this suggestion and will be proposing that the borough becomes a single tier on its current boundaries.

That is cynical political opportunism of the highest order.

Ipswich should be a single-tier authority. But it must be based on the 21st century boundary of the A14/A12 by-pass.

It is lunacy to even think of creating a single authority for the town and not include Pinewood, Rushmere, Kesgrave and Martlesham.

If you're ambitious enough to want to run the town, you can't stop running it half way along Foxhall Road, or only on one side of Belmont Road.

I know people who live in those parts of town currently outside the boundary say they don't want to come in.

But it's time for them to start paying their way alongside the rest of it. People in Kesgrave and Rushmere use Crown Pools and the Regent Theatre. They visit Christchurch Park and moan if the streets of their town centre aren't kept clean.

Is it too much to expect them to chip in and help pay for these - or are the politicians happy to pander to their selfishness?

It's not just in Ipswich that the boundaries must be changed.

Look at Babergh Council - a great big sausage of an authority stretching from Shotley in the east to Glemsford in the west.

Unless the government decides that the best solution for Suffolk is a single-tier authority based on the current county boundaries there is no way that this district can be kept intact once the change is made.

It would be ridiculous to have Shotley administered by a west Suffolk authority based in Bury St Edmunds.

And it would be equally daft to have Sudbury and Glemsford run from Ipswich when their natural focus is Bury.

So if Babergh has to be cut in half anyway, surely the boundary commissioners could be told to do a proper job on Suffolk.

With Lowestoft linking up with Great Yarmouth, a greater Ipswich and two rural councils for East and West Suffolk - split down the A140 - there would be logic to the new map of Suffolk.

But if supine politicians and officials, desperate to get extra power for its own sake, don't stand up to the government we could be left with a dog's dinner which simply won't work.

LIBERAL Democrats across the country can be forgiven this week for quoting Mark Twain: “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated!”

Certainly the victory in Dunfermline was a great boost to a party which has had a wretched time over the last few months.

But I'm not sure there is much to be learned from this seat in the parts of the country where the Lib Dems are fighting the Conservatives - either fighting to win seats like South Suffolk or hold on to seats like Colchester and North Norfolk.

In the next general election the party could still do well by picking up natural Labour seats where voters are disenchanted after 12 years but could never vote Tory,

But a moderate Tory campaign headed by a personable young leader could put great pressure on in other parts of the country.

And places like Winchester, Taunton and Hereford could easily turn true blue once again.

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