Trying to understand what is happening at Suffolk County Council is not easy. It is confused by two things happening at once — a deep political/philosophic reshaping of the role of the council and very heavy cuts in spending.
Local government has a specific responsibility to local people, communities and businesses – and must ensure that they honour these responsibilities. Given the financial, economic, social and demographic pressures no one can doubt that there needs to be some radical changes, but has Suffolk found the right solution for Suffolk?
To reach a judgement, we (and the citizens of Suffolk) need the answers to the questions posed earlier and, most importantly, we need to know what local people think. Without public authorisation and consent it might prove the wrong decision to rush into implementation of what could be irreversible actions with dramatic consequences.
This appeared at the beginning of October but I believe it is still worth reading in full. Tizard is an extremely well-informed commentator, having worked for Capita and the CBI before heading the Centre for Public Service Partnerships. He was also joint leader of Bedfordshire County Council for eight years.
He may well take a different view now and have answers to some of the questions he poses.
In his article he posed ten strategic questions which required reasoned, evidence-based answers. I don’t think Suffolk people have those answers yet.
There is little doubt that the Suffolk experiment is precisely that – an experiment, because no other UK local authority has embarked on such a programme, albeit that others have adopted elements of it on a much smaller scale. To that end, the council would, if intent on such an approach, be well advised to consider piloting some of its proposals in the first instance.
If Tizard would like to update his comments I will be very happy to publish whatever he sends me. In the meantime I urge people to read his original article.