How council services in Lowestoft and Waveney are about to get their biggest shake-up for more than 40 years
- Credit: Nick Butcher
The biggest shake-up in council services in Lowestoft and Waveney for a generation has been given the go-ahead, paving the way for change across the area.
In a transformation not seen since the local government reorganisation of 1974 abolished the old Lowestoft Borough Council, elected representatives in Waveney voted to merge their council with neighbouring Suffolk Coastal.
The decision, also approved by Suffolk Coastal's councillors on Thursday, January 26, will see the creation of a new 'super district' which will be the largest in the country.
The move was not without its criticism.
While cabinet members pointed to the £840,000 per year the change will save across both districts, Waveney Labour group leader Sonia Barker added that it would 'weaken the links between communities and their local councillors'. She also called for a referendum, saying a survey of 1,000 people conducted in a public consultation was insufficient.
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But at its meeting on Wednesday, January 25 Waveney District Council also voted in favour of setting up a new town council for Lowestoft and parish council for Oulton Broad.
That, leader Colin Law argued, would solve a 'democratic deficit', because those areas have never had their own grassroots councils fighting for their interests. That, however, also brought concerns from the Labour opposition – not least at the assets that are being transferred to the new town and parish councils from the district.
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They include the much-loved Marina Theatre, the sea wall at Ness Point and Lowestoft Town Hall, along with public toilets, parks and other facilities.
'The principal of grassroots support is great,' said Mrs Barker at the meeting on Wednesday, January 25. 'But it's the way it's been done. It is like a divorce settlement where the assets that cost the most stay with Waveney and the things that are going to cost are transferred.'
However Mr Law said: 'The opposition can't see the benefit this will bring. We're giving the people of Lowestoft a voice in a new, merged authority.'