Council Merger – Its A Con

The proposed (and hence certain to go through) merger between Waveney District Council (WDC) and Suffolk Coastal has been coming for a long time. Never admitted of course, never tested at elections but all the signs were there. Tory run Waveney combined with even Toryer Suffolk Coastal will, they hope, entrench them for ever in what is left of local government.

The abandonment of Lowestoft Town Hall, now empty and shuttered, and its replacement with a dull office block (and car park) a mile south of town on the road to Woodbridge defied logic and planning rules. Suffolk Coastal’s new offices, yes, a mile or so north of Woodbridge on the road to Lowestoft created facts on the ground. A merger and probably the closure of one of those offices is a likely next step.

Meanwhile in continuing attempts to balance the books WDC has hived off, leased out, contracted out, sold off or privatised most of the services that it was responsible for.

WDC now has planning, coastal management, council housing and not much else. District councils will lose all their central government funding (which still accounts for about a third of Waveney’s income) within a few years. The New Homes Bonus Scheme, which doubles council tax income through government subsidy, is also ending. WDC will raise charges where it can and sell off more assets (the demolition of Battery Green car park and the sale of the site is an obvious example). One would predict that WDC’s Marina Customer Service Centre will be closed and sold. The Councils will try, and probably fail, to raise business rates. As WDC itself admits, there is little scope to raise revenue. More cuts are to be expected.

The merging of departments that has already taken place has failed Lowestoft. Philip Ridley, at present employed by Suffolk Coastal, is Head of Planning and Coastal Management for both Councils. He was responsible for pushing through the evacuation of the now abandoned Town Hall. He backed Tesco’s failed takeover of the Tramway Hotel. He was involved in the murky and now collapsed agreement for WDC to buy the Sanyo site for housing. He argued vigorously for the granting of planning permission for mass house building and the demolition of existing waterside businesses on the Brooke Peninsula/Jeld Wen site. The company he backed, Cardy Construction, with an awful known record of failure in Ramsgate has since gone into administration.

Dressing up cuts as improvements doesn’t wash. The merger is cuts-led and less funding in the future means more cuts and less democracy.

We oppose it.

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