CONCERNS have been raised about the future of council office buildings as plans to integrate district and borough authorities across Suffolk gather pace.

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Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils are undergoing a radical restructure as part of a move to combine their services, including their planning departments. The councils are being used as an example for the integrated model nationally.

But while many recognise the benefits of sharing services to make financial savings and improve efficiency, some town councillors have expressed concerns about the future of key council headquarters buildings in Hadleigh and Needham Market, if the two bodies were to merge completely.

While the district councils’ administration acknowledges changes will have to be made to the buildings – which will become too big as staffing levels are streamlined – a spokesman said these were unlikely to occur within the next three years. But at a recent Hadleigh Town Council meeting, members said it would be devastating to the economy of the town if Babergh closed its Cork Lane premises.

Town mayor Mary Munson said: “The council’s revenues and benefits services have already been relocated to Ipswich and there are concerns that if the planning departments integrate, Hadleigh could be left as a satellite office. Most people in the older generation come into Hadleigh to pay their council tax and use council services so the loss would particularly impact on them.”

Councillor Jan Byrne said she feared the councils might deem it “logical” to close one of the buildings down completely.

Her colleague, Brian Lazenby, also believes a big proportion of the local population still require face- to-face services. He added: “Many people come into the town to visit Babergh’s offices and if they closed them, it could have a detrimental affect on the economy.”

A spokesman for the two district councils said it could take up to five years before a final decision would be made about the future of the High Street, Needham Market premises of Mid Suffolk and Babergh’s Hadleigh headquarters. He added: “Both councils are very much aware of the economic impact of the two headquarters on the towns and any decision on what happens to the buildings in terms of partial or full use will be considered as part of that wider economic impact. It is something that councillors have looked at and feel there’s a lot more work to be done in terms of staffing structures and changing how staff work within their communities before the issue of the future of the buildings is decided.”

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