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Councils safe- for now

PUBLISHED: 16:56 10 February 2010 | UPDATED: 09:14 01 August 2010

SUFFOLK councils were today told there will be no immediate structural change in their organisation following a three-year Local Government Review by Whitehall.

SUFFOLK councils were today told there will be no immediate structural change in their organisation following a three-year Local Government Review by Whitehall.

Local government minister Rosie Winterton made the announcement in a written statement to the House of Commons today - prolonging years of uncertainty.

She said councils and MPs from Suffolk should get together to reach a consensus on what kind of unitary government would be best for the county.

This should lead to a “countywide constitutional convention” which would draw up detailed proposals.

But with a general election just three months away most councillors saw the decision as kicking widespread reform into the long grass.

The Conservatives have already said they would stop any wholesale reform if they are elected at the next general election to avoid the cost of restructuring local government.

Today's decision effectively means the current structure of local government in Suffolk - with the county council running services like education, social services, road maintenance and the service and district or borough councils emptying bins, providing housing, and dealing with planning applications will continue.

The battle in Suffolk has opened big scars with many people supporting proposals for three unitary councils - for East Suffolk, west Suffolk and Ipswich - while the county favoured a “One Suffolk” option.

The government's Boundary Committee came up with a proposal for an Ipswich/Felixstowe authority - an option that attracted very little support from anywhere.

Now nothing will happen in the immediate future - and if the Conservatives win the next general election any thought of major reform is likely to be rapidly forgotten.

Meanwhile Norwich City Council was told it would be allowed to become a unitary authority - as was Exeter in Devon.

However both cities are aware that these proposals could still be repealed if the Conservatives take power in May.

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