Unitary bid halt reason revealed

IPSWICH'S unitary bid was halted over fears it could take more than the required five years to make back the cost of the shake-up in savings, The Evening Star can reveal today.

IPSWICH'S unitary bid was halted over fears it could take more than the required five years to make back the cost of the shake-up in savings, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Plans for home rule in Ipswich were dramatically shelved by government on Tuesday following months of analysis by number crunchers.

However, at the last hurdle Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, decided that the finances did stack up.

As part of its financial case Ipswich Borough Council claimed it could make back the £13.7million cost of setting up the new authority within four years through annual savings.

Today it emerged that a letter to Ipswich Borough Council giving the reason for the decision stated that “she [Hazel Blears believes that, allowing a reasonable estimate for costs, the pay back period for your proposal may be over the five years specified by the affordability criterion.”

Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, Liz Harsant, said she was sceptical of the explanation and felt the real reason for the shake-up being shelved was a political one.

Most Read

She said: “We are adamant our figures are right and we have asked to see their calculations and how they came to their decision.

“Why didn't they say this before?

“They have been through the financial case four times.”

Mrs Harsant said the Department for Communities and Local Government has so far refused to provide its calculations.

“We are going to be persistent about this,” she said.

“I think it is right that we should be able to see the reason.”

Meanwhile, leader of Suffolk County Council, Jeremy Pembroke, has warned that every authority in Suffolk is facing an uncertain future as a result of Tuesday's decision.

A review will be carried out by the Boundary Committee throughout Norfolk and Suffolk to look at the possibility creating a number of unitary authorities.

It could include a Greater Ipswich, an East Suffolk unitary, a West Suffolk unitary, a whole Suffolk unitary, and the merger of Waveney with Great Yarmouth.

Mr Pembroke, who described the situation as a “complete mess”, said: “It places in jeopardy all councils if it goes down that route.

“All councils could disappear to be replaced by new councils.

“It will be everything up in the air.”

A spokesman for the Boundary Committee told the Star the body had yet to be formally asked to carry out the review and therefore could not comment on it.

N Do you think government was right idea to shelve unitary plans for Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter