Unitary bid goes to London

IPSWICH'S bid to take over full responsibility for all local authority services in the borough was today being handed in to Whitehall.The borough council was putting in a bid for unitary status alongside Norwich, Oxford and Exeter.

IPSWICH'S bid to take over full responsibility for all local authority services in the borough was today being handed in to Whitehall.

The borough council was putting in a bid for unitary status alongside Norwich, Oxford and Exeter.

The bid was taken from Ipswich to the London office of Communities' Secretary Ruth Kelly.

If successful the borough would take over all local government functions in Ipswich, including those currently undertaken by the county council.

It would mean the borough would run the town's schools and its social services. It would be an end to the confusion of one council collecting rubbish and another being responsible for disposing of it.

All services currently undertaken by the county council would be transferred to the borough - except the fire service which would be run by a joint body made up of county and Ipswich councillors.

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The borough decided to press ahead with the bid because voters were confused about which body was responsible for which service - and because a single-tier council would be able to focus completely on issues facing the town.

All three political leaders at the borough are backing the bid and have signed the document which was being taken to London by council officer Jonathan Stevenson from the bid review team

In a joint statement, Conservative council leader Liz Harsant, opposition Labour leader David Ellesmere and Liberal Democrat leader Richard Atkins all said unitary status was vital for the future of the town.

The bid would:

nCut the current duplication, waste and confusion in the provision of services to residents and businesses in Ipswich;

nSimplify democracy in Ipswich by reducing the number of councillors and introducing all-out elections every four years;

nBring power closer to the people of Ipswich by devolving budgets and local decision-making to area committees;

nEnable individual Ipswich councillors to better represent their constituents by giving them new powers and a neighbourhood budget;

nBe able to focus on issues and problems which are unique to Ipswich;

nBring more finance into Ipswich without reducing funding for the rest of Suffolk.

Mrs Harsant said today: “This is a very important day for the town. We need to be able to run our own affairs.”

The county is opposing an Ipswich breakaway and is proposing an alternative reform of establishing a pathfinder project which would see it working closer with all districts and boroughs in Suffolk - while retaining the existing structure.

If the Ipswich bid jumps the first hurdle, the government will ask for more information during the spring - and will consult local people about the change.

A final decision should be made later in the year and the borough would take over all local authority functions in Suffolk from May 2009.

Current situation:

Borough runs:

Housing.

Planning.

Parks.

Sports facilities - including swimming pools.

Regent Theatres.

Waste collection.

The county runs:

Education - schools and nurseries.

Social services.

Libraries.

Fire service.

Trading standards.

Waste disposal.

Roads (although in Ipswich it pays the borough to do this for it).

The councils share responsibilities for some services causing more confusion.

These include economic development, and environmental issues.

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