The temperature in the great Local Government reorganisation debate is rising as the ‘consultation period’ continues.
The County is certainly working hard to promote its idea of ‘One Suffolk’, holding meetings and issuing pamphlets around the County. The ‘Two Suffolk’ party, which comprises those who prefer the Boundary Committee’s proposal of a Rural Unitary plus a Fast Growth Unitary based on Ipswich (‘North Haven’), is crying ‘foul’, and accusing the County of issuing propaganda. This is a pity, because the merits of each case are becoming obscured and drowned out in the heat that is being generated.
The matter will be on the agenda at Babergh at the Council Meeting on 2nd September, so there is time for those of us who want to give the matter careful thought to continue to ruminate. Last week Colin and I took ourselves down to Sudbury Town Hall to hear the deliberations of Sudbury Town Council on the issue.
The Council found itself somewhat perplexed and this is not altogether surprising. Views on the proposals are being sought without the benefit of any financial costing of the alternatives, which in my view is fairly crucial material when it comes to decision making. The County is claiming that the ‘One Suffolk’ alternative will save everyone £100 Council Tax a year....but, even if this turns out to be accurate, perhaps people would be willing to pay an extra £100 or so per annum for services from a council whose culture is more closely aligned to their needs? Cheaper is not always best value, as anyone who has ever had their home decorated by a cowboy builder will tell you!
Sudbury Town Council found the second task allotted to them by the Boundary Committee somewhat easier. In addition to their views on the main proposal and the alternative, the Council was asked to consider what devolved arrangements for service delivery might be put in place in the event of a unitary council being established.
The answer of the Council was quite clear: if offered the chance, and the resources, to take on more responsibilities, it would certainly do so. The Town Council has some 17 members and a paid staff working in the Town Hall. I wonder if Parish Councils, that have difficulty filling the vacancies for councillors when election time comes around, will be as enthusiastic?