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Councils to merge?

The future working relationship between Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils is being examined – with the possibility of a merger being explored.

Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils have been working increasingly closely, since appointing a joint Chief Executive in 2008. This partnership has been key to the Councils’ ability to make £16million efficiency savings since 2008.

Now, at a Simultaneous Cabinet Meeting on Monday, 14 March, leading councillors from both Councils will consider a report examining all the options for the future from forming a wider partnership with one or more other district/borough councils through to formally merging Suffolk Coastal and Waveney into a single district council for East Suffolk.

The report concludes: ‘Both councils are committed to ensuring that East Suffolk is in the best possible position to respond to, and take advantage of, these emerging opportunities and challenges……The Cabinets are now asked whether they want SMT (the joint Senior Management Team) to develop a draft business case for the formal merger of the two district councils.’

It is stressed these proposals are still at a very early stage. Any merger could not happen without a lengthy democratic process, including public consultation, which would run until 2019 at the earliest.

In a statement, the Leaders of Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils, Cllrs Ray Herring and Colin Law, said: “Suffolk Coastal and Waveney have been successfully working in partnership since 2008. We were the first councils in Suffolk, and among the first in the country, to adopt this approach.”

“This partnership working has played a key role in both councils’ ability to drive down costs and provide more efficient frontline services, giving local tax payers better value for money.”

“However, in the current economic climate, when Councils are being forced to put up Council tax for the first time in six years, we recognise that we need to continue to explore new and innovative ways of making savings.”

The Councils currently have a joint Business Plan, issue joint performance and annual reports, use a joint ‘east Suffolk’ email account for staff and are developing a joint east Suffolk website – now they are looking at whether there are clear benefits and further efficiencies from building closer working links.

“If the councils decide to explore the possibility of a merger, because it is felt this will help us to deliver better services and provide better value for money, this would have to be agreed by both Full Councils, as well as there being public consultation and the Boundary Commission being involved.,” said the Leaders.

“Any such proposal would be subject to a lengthy and full democratic process, which would be in the public domain over a period of years and would not be implemented before the 2019 elections.’

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