Unitary bid cost to householders

A NEW front in the battle for Ipswich was opened today after the county claimed the borough's bid for independence would cost householders hundreds of pounds.

By Paul Geater

A NEW front in the battle for Ipswich was opened today after the county claimed the borough's bid for independence would cost householders hundreds of pounds.

Ipswich council leaders dismissed the claims as scaremongering and said that a single authority for the town would be more efficient and would save money within three to four years.

Suffolk County Council today published its formal rebuttal of the borough's case, warning that reorganisation would cost £43 million - which equates to £327 for every band D property in the town.


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County council leader Jeremy Pembroke said his authority estimated it would cost £19 million to set up a new Ipswich council and lack of economies of scale would cost a further £24 million over the next five years.

He said: “In our view, these proposals simply do not stack up. They will not improve public services, they will not deliver value for money, they will not benefit the people of Ipswich or the people of Suffolk.”

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The county is to debate the unitary proposal at its meeting on May 24 and is expected to approve the document which was unveiled today to be sent to the Department of Communities and Local Government.

However at the borough's headquarters in Grafton House, on the opposite side of Russell Road, officials were quick to pour cold water on the county's concerns.

The borough calculates that the start-up costs of a unitary council are just under £14 million, and with savings of £4 million a year there will be real savings in less than four years.

Council leader Liz Harsant said: “Quite frankly we've heard the county's figures before and they haven't been tested by any other organisation.

“Our figures have already been examined by the government department and the Audit Commission and they have been satisfied with them.”

County chief executive Mike More said this was the first time the county had had an opportunity to comment on the bid - and was sure the government would examine their figures. He said: “These figures are a bit like the survey you have when buying a new house.”

The last date for representations to the government is June 22, and a final decision on whether any councils will be granted unitary status is due in early July - although there are fears this could be delayed if there is a major cabinet reshuffle after Gordon Brown becomes prime minister.

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