Greens call for ‘undemocratic’ county council to be abolished

BIG CALL: Bildeston parish councillor Robert Lindsay says Suffolk County Council should be abolished and replaced with four unitary authorities.
BIG CALL: Bildeston parish councillor Robert Lindsay says Suffolk County Council should be abolished and replaced with four unitary authorities.

The leader of Suffolk County Council has dismissed suggestions by Green Party officials that the authority should be abolished.

Mark Ereira-Guyer, leader of the Green and Independent group on Suffolk County Council, had called for replacing the two-tier system with four unitary authorities across the county.

“The current system of local government in Suffolk, with responsibilities split between seven district councils and one county council, is overly complicated, expensive and undemocratic,” he said.

Mr Ereira-Guyer had called for a debate to “agree on a modern way of running Suffolk”.

Addressing the claim this week, council leader Mark Bee (Con), said: “This suggestion is misguided.

“We are working very closely with our colleagues in councils across Suffolk to squeeze the maximum value out of the money we spend.

“It is great to see the way councils in Suffolk are cutting duplication and merging services.

“Every penny we spend should be focused on doing this as efficiently as possible, rather than on costly and complex top-down reorganisations, where the benefits are open to debate.”

Robert Lindsay, a Bildeston parish councillor and Green Party Parliamentary candidate for South Suffolk, backed Mr Ereira-Guyer’s proposals, saying that local decisions were being made by people who knew little about the areas they were presiding over.

“The problem is you should have someone who lives in Sudbury making decisions about Sudbury, but you don’t,” said Mr Lindsay.

“A decision made in west Suffolk by people living in west Suffolk is more likely to be in line with what people need and want.”

He added that four unitary authorities would be able to tailor spending to their own individual needs, making policy-making far more efficient.

Other councillors said they would support a move to ensure local policy was made by those with an attachment to the local area, but had to concede that they could not see changes to the overall structure taking place.

Babergh district councillor Richard Kemp (Ind) said that he supported the idea of unitary authorities but said it was not a new approach.

“I have heard this all my life and I have never seen it happen,” said Mr Kemp, who felt the Green Party was using the policy to try to gain more public support.

Fellow district councillor Jack Owen (Lab) said he would like to see town and district councils given more power but said: “I don’t see it coming to a vote. It’s totally academic. Government would have to be involved.”

Mr Owen felt that the suggestion was a waste of time that could be better spent on more realistic objectives.

“I just think there are so many other important issues,” he said. “It is silly getting involved in a debate on a policy that can’t happen without the Government.”

County councillor John Sayers (Con) agreed that it was extremely unlikely that drastic changes would take place.

“I don’t think we can reverse the processes now,” he said. “Babergh and Mid Suffolk are already well on their way to joining together. We can’t reverse it.”

He said that mergers within councils would bring financial benefits in any case, as less councillors and council officers would be needed in the new structures.