Hailed by Council Leaders in Suffolk as a ‘historic day’, an agreement to formally merge has been reached by two district councils for the first time since local government reorganisation in 1974.
Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils have both approved proposals to create a brand new ‘super district’ council, delivering services to communities across east Suffolk and will now work with the Department of Communities and Local Government to begin the formal process of merger. With the Secretary of State’s agreement, the new Council would then hold elections, and commence operations, in 2019.
Suffolk Coastal approved the proposals at a Full Council meeting on Thursday evening (January 26 2017), a day after Waveney councillors voted in favour of the merger - and both Council Leaders recognise the significance of this decision.
Cllr Ray Herring, Leader of Suffolk Coastal District Council said:
“This is a historic day for local government, for Suffolk and, most importantly, the communities we serve. By creating a new, larger and more influential council, we will be able to keep costs down, enabling us to maintain and improve the services that local people depend on.
“Working in partnership has already helped the councils save over £16m since 2010. However, further savings cannot be made unless the partnership progresses further. A new, merged, council will be better placed to address the shared challenges that both councils face.”
Cllr Colin Law, Leader of Waveney District Council said:
“Our councils have made history today and I could not be more delighted. We already have a joint ‘East Suffolk Business Plan’ which sets out our vision for the future of the area and a new council is a natural development reflecting important, shared similarities and challenges.
“This decision will enable us to withstand significant reductions in Central Government funding for councils and better address key issues such as the need for investment in growth and infrastructure projects and increasing housing demand and costs.”
Stephen Baker, Chief Executive for the two councils, has been in post since 2008 and is looking forward to a bright future for the new council. He said:
“The challenge facing local government throughout the country is the need and desire to deliver the best possible services for local people in an increasingly challenging economic environment.
“At Suffolk Coastal and Waveney we have always sought to innovate and tackle these challenges head on. This is another excellent example of how we have taken a lead and made a progressive decision which we have no doubt will be watched and followed by other councils.”
The formal process of merger will now get underway and the Chief Executive, in consultation with the two Leaders, will submit a written request to the Department of the Communities and Local Government. Final ratification of the decision will then be made by the Secretary of State in September 2017.
The two existing councils will then be formally dissolved with elections to the new authority in May 2019.