Public engagement over single council proposals for West Suffolk

James Waters and John Griffiths, leaders of Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough Councils
James Waters and John Griffiths, leaders of Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough Councils
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Plans for a single council for West Suffolk are moving forward with a draft business case set to be road tested in a public engagement exercise.

St Edmundsbury Borough and Forest Heath District Councils agreed this week to move forward with the proposals.

The new authority would be around the eighth largest district/borough council in the country, which bosses say would be more financially resilient and have greater national influence.

Cllr John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury, said they would now engage with the public, business and local partners. This includes an online survey and a phone poll of randomly selected residents.

Cllr James Waters, leader of Forest Heath, added: “A new single council would put us in a much better position to drive jobs, manage growth and face the financial challenges we face.”

Both councils share the amajority of their services, which saves £4 million a year.

A single council could generate upto £850,000 in extra savings a year, according to a draft business case presented to St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath.

It says that Council Tax for the single council is likely to be around £182 to £188 per average band D property by 2025/26, which would be the seventh year of the new authority.

Councillors have formed a steering group to look at some of the technical issues.

A final business case will be presented to the councils in September and would be submitted to the Government for approval. A review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England will help to decide the number of councillors.

They are aiming to establish the new council in time for local elections in May 2019.