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Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils vote to take major step towards merging into one West Suffolk Council

PUBLISHED: 11:46 16 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:46 16 June 2017

John Griffiths and James Waters May 2017. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILS

John Griffiths and James Waters May 2017. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILS

Archant

Plans to create a new single council for west Suffolk have taken a major step forward.

After considering the findings of a draft business case councillors at Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough councils both voted in favour of pushing forward with the merger.

A period of public and stakeholder engagement will now be held and the proposals will be looked at in detail, which will inform further work on the final business case.

The councils hope to put forward the merger in time for the boundary commission review in 2018, which would see the single West Suffolk Council formed at the elections in May 2019.

St Edmundsbury leader John Griffiths, said: “The business case is clear that there are real benefits to be had for our communities and businesses by creating one single council.

“We have already shown that sharing services across both councils not only saves millions of pounds but brings real benefits to the communities we serve. I think most people care more that we are delivering services in the most effective way than they do about council structures, boundaries and processes.

“They want us to be forward thinking and not let structure get in the way of providing jobs, opportunity and continued investment in our vibrant communities.”

The councils already share services and staff, achieving savings of £4million every year. This did involve a large number of job losses.

The draft business case also suggested that extra efficiencies could be found saving around a further £300,000 every year.

At full council meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, members made it clear that the merger should not be about reducing services.

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

“A single council could give us the opportunity to not only be a stronger unified voice to champion our area but still remain small enough to find local tailored solutions with residents, groups and parish councils with your local member at the forefront.

“The decision by council is a major step forward in creating that new single authority.”

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