Babergh members told to grow up by chairman as merger row escalates
- Credit: Archant
Public services in South Suffolk are in serious danger if Babergh councillors do not “grow up” and agree to a merger with Mid Suffolk – according to their own council chairman.
Peter Burgoyne is in his second year as Babergh chairman and spoke out after he walked out of a scrutiny committee that decided to demand that a full council meeting debates plans to consult voters on a merger.
Referring it back to the council will add a new delay and makes it look impossible for a merger to be confirmed by the next elections in 2019.
He was furious that backbench Conservative councillors linked up with opposition members on the scrutiny committee to get the consultation motion re-debated.
Mr Burgoyne said: “It is time they grew up and start living in the real world. We have to merge to get the savings we need. We cannot operate as a small council because we will run out of money when government support ends in 2019/20.
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“There are councillors that have been here for 40 years and go on about what they’ve stopped happening. They’ve just looked back all the time to what it was like in 1971. We have to move forward.”
Mr Burgoyne was Conservative agent for South Suffolk until he retired two years ago: “I spent 15 years trying to get a Conservative majority on Babergh. That happened in 2015 – and in two years they have destroyed what we did.”
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One of his targets was fellow Conservative Simon Barrett who resigned as deputy leader earlier this year after failing to topple council leader Jennie Jenkins.
Mr Barrett said he did not care what Mr Burgoyne thought: “He’s talking rubbish. They’re looking to save £1m a year from the merger, and that isn’t certain.
“Those behind this rush to a merger are trying to play on people’s fear – if it doesn’t happen nothing dreadful will happen to us. It’s just like the Brexit argument. We were told then that all kinds of things would happen if we voted to come out – but things are fine.
“I’m not against a merger but we cannot do it without going to a vote first – the people of Babergh rejected it in 2011.”
It is not clear when Babergh will have a new vote on the merger consultation – a joint meeting of Babergh and Mid Suffolk cabinets backed the proposal on Friday, October 13.
Jennie Jenkins, Leader of Babergh District Council, said: “Any possibility of creating a single council to replace Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils is a huge decision, and that is why we want to engage fully with our residents before reaching any decisions about the future.
“As our electorate would expect, we also want to make sure the entire process is managed properly and transparently. Our Scrutiny Committee has carefully reviewed our Cabinet decision making process so far, not the outcome of the decision itself, and I look forward to discussing their recommendations at our Cabinet meeting next week.
“Any decisions on the future of our council will need to be taken carefully, with a detailed business case and with support from our residents, businesses and partners.
“This work must not, and will not, be rushed and this will be reflected in the approach and timetable for engagement with our communities.
“Therefore the consideration of a timetable for implementation of a new single council is entirely premature at this stage. We will continue to ensure, as with all our work, that the current and future needs of the residents and communities that we serve are at the heart of all our considerations and decisions.”