'Strong community' in mid Suffolk, Experian study finds

People living in mid Suffolk, which includes Stowmarket and Needham Market, have a great sense of community, a BBC-commissioned study suggests.

The Experian research found that the district council area had the second best "social cohesion" in England.

It has low numbers of people claiming benefits and people living in mid-Suffolk have a high life expectancy.

Not surprisingly, towns in the survey - such as Ipswich in Suffolk - were found to have less social cohesion.

The study also found that Ipswich has low house prices (262nd out of 324 in England), and has lots of people working in resilient sectors such as agriculture, banking and insurance.

Andrew Good, the chief executive of Mid Suffolk District Council, said part of the reason for the success of the area was that many of the residents "live in villages with a real sense of community".

"There is community support and huge range of parish activities and the voluntary sector is very much alive," he said.

Mr Good said: "The prime minister should come here and see what rural communities can do."

'International reputation'

He said the council could be hit by government cutbacks but aimed "to protect vulnerable people".

Mr Good said people would pull together and "get out of their armchairs" to help people in need.

To help boost the economy Suffolk County Council is proposing the setting up of a local enterprise partnership for East Anglia.

The leader of Suffolk County Council Jeremy Pembroke has written a letter to the government saying it is vital for the success of the county.

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The letter, co-written by Andy Wood, chief executive of Suffolk-brewery Adnams and the chairman of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce Peter Funnell, says businesses in the county support the plan.

"Suffolk is well placed to contribute to the ambition for East Anglia to drive the UK economy... with an international reputation for innovation and enterprise," says the letter.

The letter, released this week, adds: "Suffolk's economy has some structural weaknesses. Workforce skills are below average.

"Some areas of deprivation persist, particularly in parts of Lowestoft and Ipswich.

"Ipswich has a relatively high dependency on public sector employment and its economy is therefore at risk as the public sector shrinks."

A State of the Region debate presented by James Hazell is taking place on BBC Radio Suffolk between 0930 and 1030 BST on Friday.

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