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Clash over bid to restart unitary debate for future of local government

PUBLISHED: 14:42 04 April 2018

Leader of Suffolk County Council Colin Noble. Picture: SIMON PARKER

Leader of Suffolk County Council Colin Noble. Picture: SIMON PARKER

Suffolk leader Colin Noble has provoked a furious reaction from other council leaders in the county over his attempt to restart the unitary authority debate.

Suffolk County Council headquarters Endeavour House (right) and Ipswich Borough Council's base Grafton House (left). Picture: SU ANDERSONSuffolk County Council headquarters Endeavour House (right) and Ipswich Borough Council's base Grafton House (left). Picture: SU ANDERSON

The leaders of the seven district and borough councils in Suffolk – six of them are Conservative colleagues of Mr Noble – have accused him of acting “totally contrary to the spirit of joint working” that they have developed over the recent years.

And they have said they will not co-operate with the report the county council has commissioned from think tank ResPublica into the future of local government in Suffolk at a cost of £70,000.

An open letter signed by Mark Bee (Waveney leader), David Ellesmere (Ipswich leader), Nick Gowrley

(Mid Suffolk leader), John Griffiths (St Edmundsbury leader), Ray Herring (Suffolk Coastal leader), John Ward (Babergh leader), and

James Waters (Forest Heath leader), criticising the move has been published by the leaders.

They say: “We consider your intention to unilaterally commission a review from the think tank ‘ResPublica’, without discussing this first at the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders Group, to be totally contrary to the spirit of joint working, collaboration and partnership that together we have worked hard to develop and implement for Suffolk over a number of years.

“We cannot subscribe to, or support, your commission of the ResPublica review.

“Not only have we not had the opportunity to assess, understand or inform the detailed specification for this work, but given ResPublica’s previous published reports we do not believe that this can be an objective or independent review of Suffolk.”

It urges him to tear up the commission and to work with the district leaders to look at other ways of saving money in the county.

Mr Noble said: “We must be bold, and if needs be radical, as leaders.

“There is nothing to be afraid of here – this is an opportunity to look at and discuss anything and everything about how the public sector in Suffolk is structured, operates and delivers services to residents. After all, it’s their hard-earned money.”

In a letter in response to the council leaders and seen by this newspaper, Mr Noble said he would not be cancelling the work commissioned from ResPublica.

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