Business case for single council for West Suffolk set to be rubber-stamped

West Suffolk House Picture Mark Westley
West Suffolk House Picture Mark Westley
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Two local authorities are likely to merge if a business case is rubber-stamped next week.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council will discuss the final business case for a single council for West Suffolk – which is recommended for approval prior to submission to the secretary of state for local government – at its meeting on Tuesday.

In June, the council agreed a draft proposal for merging St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath authorities and started a public engagement exercise which, it says, showed support for the plan.

Telephone research was conducted by ComRes, with 401 people in Forest Heath and 600 in St Edmundsbury taking part.

Of those surveyed half were not aware of the proposal but, when given more information about the plan and its impact, 70 per cent of residents were favourable and 22 per cent unfavourable.

Just over half (54 per cent) said they were not concerned about the plan for a single council, however 42 per cent did have concerns. Their worries included perceptions local voices and issues might not be heard, a lack of political accountability and that services which are already stretched could be affected.

Meanwhile, the councils also contacted 162 stakeholders, with ‘broad support’ from the business sector, local MPs and neighbouring district and county councils.

If the business case is approved on Tuesday the change to single council could be complete by 2019, however the council says this could be delayed to 2020 as a result of the general election, Brexit and events including terrorism and the Grenfell Tower fire. A delay could have an impact on parish elections planned for 2019 and create additional costs.

The council meeting is at West Suffolk House at 7pm, followed by an extraordinary meeting of the cabinet.