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MP dubs county re-organisation bid a 'fiasco'

Friday, 5th March 2010.

Although Suffolk has, for the moment, escaped re-organisation into unitary authorities, Haverhill's MP Richard Spring has criticised the abortive process and its cost as a 'fiasco'.

A recent Government announcement revealed Suffolk is to stay as it is for the time being, although two other counties involved in the process, Norfolk and Devon, are to go ahead.

In a debate in Westminster Hall called by a Norfolk MP, MPs from all three counties hit out at the latest decision and the costs of making it.

Boundary Committee recommendations have been made, changed and ignored during the process and Mr Spring said the Boundary Committee had spenr 282,535 up to March last year and budgeted a further 269, 782 for the current financial year.

Mr Spring said: "The boundary committee has been charged with considering the proposals for reform. According to the district and borough councils with which I have been in contact, it has steadfastly refused to listen to their concerns.

"The so-called three council alliance spoke of the committee being inconsistent by attempting to say that it is listening to and considering all proposals yet simultaneously refusing to engage in any dialogue about proposals other than its own.

"A poll commissioned by the three councils found an overwhelming rejection of the committee's proposals. The people of west Suffolk are against the change."

Mr Spring was critical of the unitary idea because it would move decision-making even further away from fringe areas.

"One of the first criticisms that come to mind over the idea of a unitary authority that covers the whole of Suffolk is that decision making would be remote," he said.

"My constituents in places such as Brandon, Mildenhall, Newmarket and Haverhill would find the idea of local services being concentrated in Ipswich and the eastern part of the county of little appeal."

He went on: "It is with weary alarm that I look at the current plans for local government and the controversy and in-fighting that is accompanying them.

"The Secretary of State has decided against the introduction of the so-called one-Suffolk council, or the boundary committee's preferred alternative of an Ipswich-Felixstowe unitary authority, on the grounds that 'neither option is supported by the principal councils in the county.'

"That sentiment is to be greatly welcomed. However, one wonders why such a decision was not reached much earlier, particularly when one considers the arguments that I have been proposing.

"It should be noted that the issue has been left up in the air. Forest Heath district council and St Edmundsbury borough council said: 'The ministerial announcement that there will be a Constitutional Convention to determine the future shape of local government in Suffolk prolongs uncertainty and undermines management taking long term decisions.'

"The drift, the uncertainty, the waste and continued expense of trying to fight an unwanted and uncalled-for reorganisation that has run for years and failed to come to a conclusion, still rolls onwards to who knows what end. We simply could not make up such a fiasco."

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