Ipswich, Colchester and Suffolk Reform

We all know how the Greater Ipswich Area is suffering due to ridiculous area boundaries and Reform Suffolk have candidates standing in this May’s council elections to increase the debate concerning the dilemma we now find ourselves in.

While Reform Suffolk have good proposals for governmental reform in Suffolk to stop Ipswich and Lowestoft schools not doing as well as they could do due to Ipswich and Lowestoft schools presently receiving rural funding rather than receiving urban funding as they should, a number of issues would develop if the sensible proposals of Reform Suffolk are implemented. One is the future of the fire service. If Suffolk was divided in to separate authorities, what would happen to the Suffolk Fire Service? Now obviously if the Fire Service is divided into the unitary authorities, West Suffolk would have a problem due to them often calling on Ipswich fire Fighters to deal with thatch fires out in the wilds of Suffolk. Of course this also highlights the fact that Ipswich Council tax payers are paying for West Suffolk’s fire cover. Another issue is the divested Library Service. Would we keep the existing service or would libraries in the Greater Ipswich Area come under our control?

The debate has become more prevalent since Sir Bob Russell has called for a single authority made up of Ipswich and Colchester.

Sir Bob Russell says

As large urban communities, Ipswich and Colchester have more in common with each other than they do with the rural areas of Suffolk and Essex where the majority of county councillors who make decisions live. That is manifestly undemocratic.

Enough is enough! County halls for Suffolk and Essex are not serving Ipswich and Colchester well… so I suggest that we start a debate about our two historic towns – just 15 miles apart – joining forces and, with neighbouring rural areas of “Greater Ipswich” and north Essex, breaking away to form a single tier local government area which would enable Ipswich and Colchester to escape the clutches of County Hall administrations.

This proposal makes more sense than any devolution proposal does. The devolution proposals put Ipswich in the East of England devolved authority with Norwich and Cambridge when Ipswich does most of its business with Colchester. So  being in an East of England authority would be detriment to the interests of Ipswich. Colchester would be in a devolved Essex authority with Chelmsford, Southend and the like when it does most of it’s business with Ipswich. So being in an Essex authority would be detriment to the interests of Colchester. These devolution proposals originally came from Brussels to create regional identities  and diminish national identities anyway and as we are leaving the European Union and rediscovering our national identity, there is no need to keep following what the unelected , Euro-federalists want. An authority made up of Colchester, the Greater Ipswich Area with parts of North Essex and South Suffolk would have some serious economic clout and at present our potential is being eroded. Some people actually believe that BT is in Martlesham Heath because they were invited by Suffolk Coastal rather than being attracted by the engineering technology produced in companies based in Ipswich.

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Ipswich’s Best Political Blogger with Suffolk Reform’s Mark Ling

In response to Sir Bob Russells proposals, Reform Suffolk’s  Mark Ling says

1.  We are very pleased that Orwell Ahead is shaping debate and paving the way for others to outline their concerns and wishes under local government reform.

2.  We have huge respect for Colchester as a neighbour and friend, and for Sir Bob Russell for having the courage to raise very genuine concerns and ambitions for Colchester, and for considering partnership with similar situated Ipswich.

3.  Of course it does raise the question [and stakes] as to why Felixstowe, Kesgrave and Martlesham and the Greater Ipswich area will not see the very clear benefit and opportunity of working as one in partnership with Ipswich, especially when  others clearly can see those advantages!

4. Colchester’s (well Sir Bob’s) declaration will force others to consider their positions, and clearly if it was a choice of shared representation in governance with Colchester versus no representation in governance with Suffolk, it’s a very attractive proposition. However, Reform Suffolk’s Campaign priority is for a greater Ipswich & Orwell (along with east & west Suffolk).

Now the reason Felixstowe, Kesgrave and Martlesham and the Greater Ipswich area will not see the very clear benefit and opportunity of working as one in partnership with Ipswich is because they believe that by not being part of Ipswich they have lower council tax when in fact they have higher council tax by being outside Ipswich. The reason council tax in Ipswich is so high is because all the larger properties are just outside the borough boundary. With more larger properties within the local authority, council tax would actually be lower for everybody. People in Broke Hall need to understand that they are presently subsidising Woodbridge and people in Pinewood need to understand that they are presently subsidising Hadleigh. How can a situation where Rushmere parish councillors living on Foxhall Road have to go into Ipswich or Kesgrave to get to the place where Parish council meetings are held in Rushmere be of benefit to all residents of Rushmere?

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2 Responses to Ipswich, Colchester and Suffolk Reform

  1. Mark Ling says:

    http://www.orwellahead.co.uk (Reform Suffolk tab)

  2. Mark Ling says:

    Kevin, great article and thanks for furthering the debate.
    To clarify on a couple of key points.
    1) Whilst the Secretary of State has indicated that unitaries of 250,000 are not big enough, I believe that this thinking may be based on the premise of distinct operational unitaries (where 250,000 does not carry enough economies). Yet, what we are proposing is an economy of 750,000 using a shared county wide operational group (delivering both county and district services) which is certainly big enough! Suffolk wide concerms such at Fire Service, CCGs, Police will also remain Suffolk wide. In fact can come under one Cheif Operating Officer.
    2) The twist is that this operational centre will report to three equal sized political unitary districts (each 250,000) (call them functional economic geographies if you will) which will have a political mandate and are directly accountable to their local area. Meaning local government is local. This is very similar to successful business models and organisational structures, such as Volkswagen-Audi, Cadbury, Archant, etc (which have a share back room but are driven by autonomous profit centres/brands).
    3) Financially the Initial costs can be apportioned to each district as a “profit centre”. Each super-district can thereafter pursue its own mandate, but any additional costs or savings incurred by the operational centre will be billed to it (and its tax payers).
    4) In the Suffolk model this also builds on historic and functional economic geographies (BSE for West Suffolk, giving Lowestoft a boost with East Suffolk; and Ipswich & Orwell).
    5) Should Devolution resurface this model is actually far better, stronger, equitable, fairer because the super-district (and more important) taxpayers/voters will have an equal say and power over further devolved regional powers or a regional mayor.

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