Housing and the environment among priorities outlined by Suffolk County Council leader

Housing and the environment among priorities outlined by Suffolk County Council leader

A new programme using council land to create much-needed homes and a plan to cut carbon emissions are among the priorities outlined by the Leader of Suffolk County Council on 23 May.

In a speech to the council’s Annual General Meeting, Councillor Matthew Hicks confirmed the authority’s commitment to continuing work to protect vulnerable adults and children, improve Suffolk’s roads, and raise educational standards.

He also outlined five new policy priorities to address in the coming twelve months. These include proposals to start using council-owned land to create more homes in Suffolk, and plans to cut carbon emissions, starting with a major policy review involving a cross-party group of councillors.

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Hicks said:

“The chronic shortage of housing in Suffolk and throughout the country is well-known. What is less well-known is that Suffolk County Council is the third largest landowner in Suffolk. Much of that land is put to good use, as county farms, operational depots and office accommodation.

“There is scope to convert some of our land into much needed housing. And that would present an opportunity to generate income for the county council to reinvest in vital public services.

“My administration will develop proposals to make best use of our significant land asset, with a focus on delivering the kind of homes Suffolk needs.”

On the environment, Councillor Hicks said:

“Earlier this year, we voted in this chamber to declare a climate emergency. This was a progressive step forward. For me, the need to sustain our environment is greater now than ever.

“This is not a surprising decision, given our authority’s positive track record on reducing energy consumption, carbon emissions and waste.

“We have work to do. Shortly we will launch a new cross-party policy development panel and I look forward to the panel’s recommendations. We can act now. My administration is refreshing Suffolk’s Greenest County programme and I look forward to the relaunch with renewed vigour, profile and commitment later this year.”

Building on work in the past twelve months, Councillor Hicks pledged to continue working collaboratively with district and borough councils, other public sector partners, businesses and residents to find the best ways of delivering services to the people that need them most.

Councillor Hicks also announced plans to work with partners, businesses and residents to develop a long-term vision for Suffolk, to renew the council’s approach to growing Suffolk’s economy and for the council to act more commercially.

He said:

“We have significantly improved our relationships with district and borough councils, the wider public sector and business community. We have listened to and involved residents and service users on key decisions and made it possible for councillors, of all political persuasions, to influence policy.”

Councillor Hicks confirmed the reappointment of his current cabinet members and deputy cabinet members, with the addition of Councillor Nick Gowrley who will lead the council’s new economic development and housing portfolio.

Ending his speech, Councillor Hicks said:

“No matter how difficult the decision, how strenuous the challenge, my administration will not shy away from it nor will it fail to involve people. We will be bold. We must have the humility to recognise that we don’t have all the answers, but can find them by working productively with others.

“We must be ambitious for Suffolk. We must strive to make our County proud of all we achieve. That work starts now.”

Read Councillor Matthew Hicks’ speech in full (PDF, 131KB)