So near - yet so far apart

SOMETIMES you do still hear people asking why it is necessary to go through the long, divisive business of reorganising authorities in Suffolk - after all isn't the present system working well enough?

Paul Geater

SOMETIMES you do still hear people asking why it is necessary to go through the long, divisive business of reorganising authorities in Suffolk - after all isn't the present system working well enough?

A quick look at the farcical situation which blew up over the application for funding for new cycle facilities this week should be enough to show that the current arrangements are not working.

Environment and transport departments from the opposite sides of Russell Road in Ipswich could not agree on drawing up a bid for cycle routes in the town, so the county picked up its ball and said it was going to Lowestoft's party instead!

The two councils are now busy throwing mud at each other like a pair of schoolboys - or Premiership footballers - but at least they should be able to hit the target, their offices are only about 20 yards away from each other.

County transport spokesman Guy McGregor and the borough's transport chief Paul West may express bewilderment about how the other council operates, but it doesn't actually get the Ipswich cyclist very far.

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The situation that exists between the borough and county councils now is like something from an Ealing comedy which would be funny if it wasn't so serious for the council taxpayers of the town.

It's all very well for the authorities to preen themselves about their award for the prostitution strategy - but they should not only talk to each other when the eyes of the world are on them.

And while the prostitution strategy has been a positive to come out of the horrors of Steve Wright's short reign of terror, the fact is that two years ago before he went on his rampage, no one seemed to want to talk about prostitution when opposition councillors first raised the issue.

But I digress.

The fact is that the councils don't talk to each other. They don't like each other.

So it would be much better if all services were run by the same authority. So only one department would have to draw up a scheme if the government offered to pay thousands for cycle improvements.

The obvious best model for Suffolk would be a greater Ipswich authority running all services within the A14/A12 “box” - including Kesgrave, Rushmere, Pinewood, and Warren Heath - and separate east and west Suffolk council for the rest of the county.

But if the government decides it has to go for the “big is best” alternative of “One Suffolk” - which still seems unlikely - then that would not be a disaster.

I suppose it would be better to have the destiny of Ipswich decided by the residents of Kersey, Hoxne and Rattlesden than have the constant cold war.

We should have a better idea on Monday what the shape of local government will be in Suffolk in future. Anything would be better than the current mess.

- Tories would turn on councillors

MY hackles do rise slightly when I hear opposition spokesmen and women talking about allowing “local people to take local decisions”.

The implication is that councillors should be given more freedom to decide issues for the people they represent.

Anyone who believes an incoming Conservative government would stick to that lofty ideal beyond its second year in power is living in cloud cuckoo land.

This is the same Conservative Party that spent 16 of its 18 years in power between 1979 and 1997 stripping local authorities of their power, and I have no doubt they would do it again when faced with the same circumstances.

Because when a government is elected into power it enjoys a honeymoon of a few months - but after two years the ruling party (whoever it is) starts losing council seats . . . and then power in the town and county halls across the country.

At that stage the politicians in Westminster and the civil servants in Whitehall get fed up when local authorities don't start doing things their way.

Margaret Thatcher turned the screws on councils in the early 1980s, Tony Blair turned the screws on councils in the late 1990s, and I have no doubt that David Cameron would turn the screws on councils in the next decade if he wins power in the next general election.

- Exclusive: My boss is wonderful!

IT'S a funny old world!

This week we received a press release from the NHS in the East of England saying that it welcomed the national NHS reform proposals from new health minister Lord Darzi.

Frankly that's a bit like someone issuing a statement saying how wonderful they thought their boss was.

It's news if an employee issues a statement saying that his boss is terrible and his plans for the future are all wrong.

It isn't news if an employee says his boss is wonderful. There is a very descriptive Anglo-Saxon phrase I could use - but I don't think my editor would allow it in print!