Suffolk: Time for a new direction at the county council

TODAY The Evening Star makes an unprecedented call for change at Suffolk County Council.

We are calling for a New Suffolk Direction for our wonderful county.

And we would like the new, incoming, leadership at county hall to ditch the painful experiment called The New Strategic Direction as its bold and imaginative first move.

Just a week from today Suffolk’s 54 Conservative county councillors will have elected a new leader – and our ‘ditch it’ clarion call is to whoever takes the helm at Endeavour House as leader.

The election comes at a time when borough and district opponents are gearing up for elections – county council seats will not be contested for another two years

There is a small electorate in the leadership race – yet the result is of massive importance to everyone who lives and works in one of Britain’s most treasured counties.

For the tentacles of change under New Strategic Direction proposals reach far and wide – and affect people from Beccles to Bury, Newmarket to Needham Market, Lowestoft to Lavenham and Ipswich to Ixworth.

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The New Strategic Direction has lost one of its key architects, with the departure of former council leader Jeremy Pembroke.

It is to be seen this week who of the three main contenders so far will nail their colour to the NSD mast.

It is to be seen this week who will boldly look to bring about change but in a measured, cohesive, inclusive way, away from NSD.

We believe the current council policy isn’t right for Suffolk – a county prepared for change and difficult decisions. But not at all costs.

Dismantling Suffolk’s �220,000 a year school lollipop service – yes, just �220,000 for a full year for ALL of Suffolk – is one example of policy steamroller overtaking pragmatism and common sense.

And that’s before we get to libraries, or other vital services.

We believe it shouldn’t be a case of a NSD at all costs, with communities troubled and disturbed without time to think things through properly.

Suffolk people – part of the backbone of our great nation – might want to think a little about the options open to them and not be rushed along by only one-way policy.

They want to be guided by elected officials driving through crafted and well-thought-out and brilliantly communicated ideas.

We’ll throw in one right here and now.

In times of changes, when time is needed for clear thinking and collaboration, let’s use up some of SCC’s rainy weather money.

The council sits on tens of millions of pounds of our money in its reserves – as an example just �1 million of it could keep the lollipop service open for the five years it might take to come up with a new funding model.

Suffolk County Council is - and will continue to be - an authority that is respected in local authority circles and in Whitehall.

It is a council with some great employees and some great councillors who give unstinting service without thought for the extra work and dedication involved.

But a strength – even for the best of councils, is to admit a mistake.

New Strategic Direction is a little understood sprint that has many people in an unnecessary tailspin.

The council should speedily admit it needs to think again – hence our call today for a New Suffolk Direction.