Suffolk

Suffolk Coastal and Waveney councils consider merger

East Suffolk
Image caption (Clockwise from top left) Aldeburgh, Felixstowe, Lowestoft and Martlesham Heath could all become part of England's "largest district council"

Two of Suffolk's councils have agreed to look at a full merger to create one large local authority.

Waveney and Suffolk Coastal district councils could join to create East Suffolk District Council.

The proposal would save £800,000 a year, a cabinet report said.

A joint meeting held by the Conservative-led authorities agreed to look at the business case for a merger. Some Labour councillors have said the move would weaken local democracy.

The existing district councils have shared a chief executive since 2008 and pooled office staff and some services, but this option would comprise a full political merger.

Image copyright Mike Page Aerial Photography
Image caption Lowestoft, where Waveney District Council is based, would be the largest town in a new East Suffolk District Council

Colin Law, Conservative leader of Waveney, said: "We are in straitened times and have had to look at cuts of 15-20% and that makes it a worthwhile proposition."

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Waveney Labour leader Sonia Barker, said: "We could end up with the largest district council in England and local democracy will be affected because councillors in Felixstowe, Kesgrave and Martlesham will be making decisions for residents in Lowestoft, Beccles and Bungay, which we do not think is a good idea."

Options being considered

Image copyright Alfie Thurlby, Pooneh Ghana. BBC
Image caption (Clockwise from top left) Beccles, Latitude Festival at Henham Park, Southwold Harbour and Sizewell nuclear power stations are part of Suffolk's identity
  • Full merger of Suffolk Coastal District Council and Waveney District Council (recommended for approval)
  • Combining both councils services and staff, but maintaining the current political set-up of councillors and separate cabinets and separate leaders
  • Merging both district councils into a single unitary authority which would also take over Suffolk County Council's services such as education, waste disposal and social services

Stephen Baker, joint chief executive of both existing councils, said: "Having the two authorities represented by a single leader would have the potential for a much stronger voice.

"If we need to break some of the big strategic decisions down so they're more representative of the local areas, that's exactly what we will need to explore through the business case."

If both councils approve the merger plan, a public referendum would follow.

If approved by the government, East Suffolk District Council could be created in May 2019.

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