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Public view of west Suffolk councils ‘Dickensian’ says committee member

PUBLISHED: 17:15 08 June 2018

West Suffolk councils need to promote their good work more, said the overview and scrutiny committee Picture: PHIL MORLEY

West Suffolk councils need to promote their good work more, said the overview and scrutiny committee Picture: PHIL MORLEY

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Leaders at two councils in west Suffolk have described their authorities’ work as a “national success story” and a “UK leader” – despite suggestions that the public views its work as “Dickensian”.

John Griffiths and James Waters Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILSJohn Griffiths and James Waters Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILS

The draft West Suffolk Annual Report for 2017/18 was presented to the two councils’ overview and scrutiny committees during the week, where committee members were able to discuss the report.

In it, council leaders John Griffiths (St Edmundsbury) and James Waters (Forest Heath) said: “West Suffolk is a national success story and a UK leader in transforming how councils can deliver benefits that make a real difference to the people they serve.

“This annual report is a small part of the great work Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council deliver day in, day out in West Suffolk.”

However, concerns were raised during Wednesday’s St Edmundsbury overview and scrutiny committee that the council was not doing enough to inform people of its work.

Margaret Marks said: “Public perception of the council is poor. They still see it as Dickensian. I think we need to sell ourselves far better than we do.”

Several councillors questioned why the report was focused so heavily on work in the towns, and why more consideration to rural areas was not given.

Council leader John Griffiths said: “Rural areas are a very important part of St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath.

“It’s always difficult and not necessarily the best idea to separate the rural areas from the towns.”

He added: “We do, and should, redouble our efforts to assure our rural communities are included.”

Among some of the big successes highlighted in the report were the approval of the Mildenhall Hub for better school and leisure facilities, the opening of a winter night shelter and plans to invest £1.5million in Haverhill’s sporting facilities.

Mr Griffiths added: “I am extremely proud to be part of this – I want to thank everyone involved in what I think has been an excellent year of achievement in a very challenging time.

“West Suffolk and Forest Heath are the envy of many parts of the country and at the forefront of many national changes.”

He added: “It makes what we do really worthwhile.”

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