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Suffolk politicians make bid for more control of police and public services

Suffolk’s leaders have told Whitehall they want more control over police funding.

An ambitious bid to share cash across policing, the NHS and local authorities has been launched by Suffolk’s politicians.

The government has been told Suffolk wants the same powers and spending options as city mayors in a bid to improve services.

Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore plus the leaders of the county, district and borough councils have told the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) they want a County Deal.

The government announced earlier this summer that it wanted more councils to work together and invited bids. Ministers later this month will announce which councils have expressed an interest and a consultation on next steps.

But Suffolk has gone public to ensure it gets the green light.

At a meeting in Whitehall, officials were told work to tackle anti-social behaviour, mental health and County Lines would be more effective if they were able to pool budgets and have more control over spending.

Their bid is also backed by the county’s seven MPs.

The plan would work in the same way as the regional mayors such as Manchester’s Andy Burnham who has control of policing, transport and more.

Cllr Suzy Morley, leader at Mid Suffolk District Council, said the system was already in place headed up by a board called Suffolk Public Sector Leaders, which brings together police, health and council chiefs.

“It works well and we are ready to deliver already,” she said. “We could provide better value for money for the taxpayer and better outcomes."

Results have included shared bases for police and fire teams and a sustainability plan for the entire area.

A memorandum of understanding enables the force, council, fire and others to share access to a drone for major incidents.

Having the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in the group means business is able to help with crime prevention work.

Suffolk is already delivering some policing duties, including roads, with Norfolk. But to tackle youth offending and reduce the impact of mental health demands on response teams, the force needs to work with public health partners.

The politicians think the SPSL, with extra spending could be the route to achieve that.

Cllr Morley said: “Clearly it is something ministers wanted to see. I am really proud of our collaborative way of working and I think that sets us apart from even our close neighbours.”

Other drivers are the COVID-19 recovery work being co-cordinated by the SPSL - including communications work – winter planning and re-settlement of Afghan refugees.

Tim Passmore is using the group to raise concerns over the force’s funding settlement which is £5 per head lower than neighbouring Norfolk.

He said the SPSL had proved itself: “The pandemic, the last 18 months, has been an excellent example of how we all work together.”

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