'Abolish council' group abandons plan

MAVERICK councillors who swept to power on a ticket to abolish a controversial Suffolk authority are to officially scrap the plan.

James Mortlock

MAVERICK councillors who swept to power on a ticket to abolish a controversial Suffolk authority are to officially scrap the plan.

The Abolish Bury St Edmunds Town Council (ABC) group had pledged to gradually scale down the authority - which many saw as unnecessary and expensive - before eventually winding up the whole thing.

But just under a year after they took control, its chairman Roy Bebbington last night admitted his ambitious plan had failed and on Wednesday a special meeting is expected to formally abandon the resolution to abolish made in June last year.

Mr Bebbington said he was disappointed not to have achieved his ambition but stressed the council was more cost effective and streamlined thanks to the work of the ABC.

As well as abandoning its plans to abolish the council, members are expected to reverse a raft of other decisions designed to scale down its work.

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These include a ban on staff working on the council's website, the Town Talk newsletter, the Bury Official Guide, the St Edmund's Day awards and the small grant-aid awards.

Requests for benches, dog waste bins and bus services will once again be considered if the reversals are approved and ward visits, the filling of staff vacancies and the representation of the council at civic and other functions will also be allowed.

Mr Bebbington said: “I can understand if some people feel let down but we never made any guarantees. In the end you have to be pragmatic as we are being here. I still think there is a strong voice which thinks the town council is not needed but we can't force these things.”

The chairman, whose group started with 10 of the council's 17 seats but now has only seven, said despite the wide public support for abolition, the authority was legally unable to wind itself up and failed to win support from St Edmundsbury Borough Council - which could have pressed the Government for an end to the council.

He said the latest proposals were put forward in a report commissioned by the town council from the Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC).

Mike Ames, former town mayor who was one of the founders of the council four years ago and a long-term advocate of the parish tier of local government Bury had gone without for decades, welcomed the latest moves.

He said: “I'm very pleased for the community of Bury.

“When the council started we made things happen in the town. A lot of people enjoyed the social events, the Christmas lights, the Christmas fair and the St Edmund's Day medals -we were giving people something back.

“I'm sure the town will welcome the council back and I hope it can go on and be a visionary authority.”

Paul Hopfensperger, another founder who recently failed in his bid to get back on to the authority, said he warned Mr Bebbington before last year's election that the law would not allow him to scrap the council.

However, he said he was “absolutely delighted” the abolition plan was about to be dumped and hoped the council would go on as a non-political authority.

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