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Council officer admits New Strategic Direction was a mistake

Tuesday, 20th September 2011.

A senior Suffolk County Council officer admitted to Haverhill business people last week the council got it wrong with its New Strategic Direction last year and is now trying a different tack.

In an effort to save millions of pounds the council had launched an attempt to offload a large number of its services into the private or community sectors.

But Chris Bally, assistant director of business development for the county council, told the bestofhaverhill's monthly business meeting at Days Inn Haverhill this had been so unpopular with the public it had been given up.

Continuing the theme of Wanting The Best For Haverhill, Mr Bally had been invited to speak about Suffolk County Council’s current thinking on public services and the council’s desire to develop new and innovative ways of working with businesses both locally and countywide.

He explained how the council had faced a major upheaval over the last three months. The appointment of Mark Bee as the new leader of the county council saw the end of the controversial New Strategic Direction initiative because 'it didn’t connect with the people of Suffolk'.

Chris explained that the council had learnt a number of lessons from the way the New Strategic Direction was introduced. These lessons centred on clarity of communication, the speed of change and the translation of ideas into practice.

He went on to talk about the Open Public Services white paper, published for consultation in July, setting out the Government’s approach to public services.

The white paper sets out the Government’s intention to increase choice wherever possible, creating opportunities for alternative providers, including the voluntary and community sector, independent providers and companies in the private sector.

The white paper also talks about decentralising power to the lowest appropriate level. This is intended to develop more locally tailored services. Mr Bally emphasised that what people wanted in Haverhill is not necessary what people wanted in other areas of the county.

The consultation on business rate retention was a further issue he raised and encouraged the Haverhill business community to look at the proposals and leave their views on the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) website.

Under the current system, business rates from Haverhill go to central government and there is no direct relationship as to what goes centrally and what comes back to the local area.

The rationale behind retaining business rates in the local area was to provide an incentive for local councils to do more to stimulate business growth.

Mr Bally has responsibility within Suffolk County Council for Superfast Broadband and was able to provide an update on what is happening in Suffolk.

The county council has committed funding of £10million, which has been matched with a further £11.7million from the Government and Suffolk’s Local Broadband Plan has been approved by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

By 2015 85 per cent of Suffolk will be covered by Superfast Broadband, which will help to boost communities and the economy.

In talking about what these initiatives mean for Haverhill, Mr Bally spoke about two in particular, the One Haverhill partnership and rationalising property assets.

One Haverhill is a new partnership brought together with the objective of developing joint initiatives and projects to benefit Haverhill. One such project is the creation of a new public and voluntary sector service hub at the Lower Downs Slade office in the town centre.

Elaine Carr, the owner of thebestofhaverhill said: “Chris spoke very openly about the change of thinking on the controversial New Strategic Direction initiative.

"Trying to reduce the budget by £50 million over the next two years, and keep everyone happy, is a tall order and I don’t envy those having to make such difficult decisions.

"On the positive side there are opportunities for businesses that will arise as a result of the decentralisation of services.

"The business community in Haverhill needs to ensure that we are fully aware of the opportunities and are proactive in our approach to winning these contracts in the future.”

If would you like to find about more about thebestofhaverhill visit www.thebestof.co.uk/haverhill.

Haverhill Online News

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