Row deepens over chief exec salary

SUFFOLK chiefs are today preparing a bid to take over all services from Lowestoft to Haverhill.However there are real fears that by the time controversial new chief executive Andrea Hill takes up office, a timetable for the county council's abolition could already be in place.

SUFFOLK chiefs are today preparing a bid to take over all services from Lowestoft to Haverhill.

However there are real fears that by the time controversial new chief executive Andrea Hill takes up office, a timetable for the county council's abolition could already be in place.

Councillors from the ruling Conservative administration at Endeavour House last week voted in favour of bidding for unitary status as part of Whitehall's review of local government in East Anglia.

The government has announced a timetable for its review of local government in the region - and it intends to publish a shortlist of possibly just two options by June.

Mrs Hill's departure from Bedfordshire County Council still has to be negotiated, but she could have to work several months' notice and is not expected to be free to start earning up to £220,000 a year in Suffolk until early July.

By then the proposals for local government in the county could already be published - and many observers believe the government could have rejected the unitary county option before the shortlist is published.

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One senior council official in the county said: “That would be an extraordinary situation. She would be joining the county knowing that it is to be wound up - essentially her only job would be to ensure it transfers its work satisfactorily to other councils.

“Many officers in Suffolk feel there are already people at the county who would be capable of managing that kind of exercise.”

A unitary Suffolk would be much larger than the council sizes favoured by government officials - and it is not a solution favoured by any of the districts or boroughs in the county.

There are two most commonly favoured options:

nSplitting Suffolk three ways - a “greater Ipswich” including communities inside the A14/A12 box, East Suffolk and West Suffolk.

nMoving Lowestoft and much of Waveney into a new council with Great Yarmouth, creating an even larger “greater Ipswich” including the Felixstowe and the Shotley peninsulas, and leaving the rest of rural Suffolk as a unitary authority with a headquarters in Bury St Edmunds.

In Bedfordshire Mrs Hill led an unsuccessful campaign to save the county council - a campaign which cost £500,000 and which saw posters being put up across the county to try to win over public opinion.

The administration's determination to seek a single Suffolk unitary council has caused a political split at Endeavour House - both Labour and Liberal Democrat groups feel other options would be preferable.

A spokeswoman for the council said today there were no plans at present for a major marketing campaign similar to that seen in Bedfordshire.

“We aren't proposing to launch balloons or put up posters in this part of the world,” she said.