Green councillors call for an end to secrecy of "cosy leaders club"

6 February 2018

Green councillors in two of Suffolk's local authorities have called for an end to the secrecy of a little known elite body that is making decisions on spending Suffolk tax payers' money.


The Suffolk Public Sector Leaders group, which comprises the leaders of all eight local authorities in the county plus the Police and Crime Commissioner, has been meeting in private for several years. Minutes and agendas are not published.

It has acquired a pot of about £6 million from a proportion of the business rates collected around the county.
In December it announced it was spending an unspecified sum on a private consultancy to draw up a business case for a controversial Sudbury bypass.

Green county councillor Robert Lindsay has asked the county council for information about how councillors and members of the public could feed their views to the body. He has now asked county council leader Colin Noble to make the meetings open to the public.
He said:

"This body, comprising the county's eight male local authority leaders and the male Police and Crime Commissioner is apparently making spending decisions on tax payers' behalf, yet the first most elected councillors hear about it is when they read about it in the newspapers. It may be cosy, but running a secret club is a good way to destroy the reputation of the public sector."

Cllr Rachel Eburne, Chair of Mid Suffolk Council's Overview & Scrutiny Committee said:

"Both I and leader of the Green Group Andrew Stringer asked to see minutes of this body last week. The money does not appear to be on the accounts of either Suffolk County Council or the districts. Yet how and where we spend business rates is a decision that the public needs to have some say in."

Following these questions by Green councillors, county council leader Colin Noble sent an email with his notes of the last leaders group meeting to all 75 Suffolk county councillors. In it he revealed that the leaders group had agreed to keep on Jennie Jenkins, the ousted Babergh Council leader, as chair, even though she had been forced to resign as Babergh leader last month ahead of a vote of no confidence.

He also said the leader group will "conduct a review to consider whether current arrangements remain suitable given wider changes in the public services landscape."

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