Babergh to choose new leader at special council meeting in early January

Babergh councillors met at Endeavour House in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Babergh councillors met at Endeavour House in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

An extraordinary meeting of Babergh Council has been called for January 4 in a bid to end the deadlock that has thrown the district’s leadership into chaos.

The Conservative leader of the council Jennie Jenkins resigned on Tuesday evening before the start of a council motion that had been called to try to remove her from the position.

In the end the motion – which also called on the council to halt moves towards a merger with Mid Suffolk Council unless there was a guarantee that there would be a public referendum – was passed with dissident Conservatives voting with the opposition to defeat their leaders.

Deputy leader Jan Osborne has stood in as acting leader until January 4 – but then the council will have to select someone else to take them forward.

That could be problematic. The Conservatives are the largest group on the authority with 27 of the 43 seats on the authority – but the group is split between those loyal to the leadership and the idea of consulting over merger and those who are opposed to this proposal.

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The “merger loyalists” are in the majority on the Conservative group – but if one of their number became group leader, it is likely that enough of the other Tories would vote with the opposition to deny him or her the council leadership.

Many councillors are expected to spend the Christmas break trying to find a compromise – but the row and the bid to unseat Mrs Jenkins has prompted a great deal of bitterness and ill-feeling, particularly with the Conservative group.

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It is due to meet as a group in private the day before the meeting but members are concerned that it might be difficult for them to find a candidate for leader around whom they can re-unite.

Meanwhile the consultation on the merger that was approved by the cabinet earlier in December appears to be dead in the water so far as Babergh is concerned, at least until a new cabinet is formed.

And councillors in Mid Suffolk are watching the situation in their partner authority with growing concern – the two councils share a single administration.

Councillors in Mid Suffolk are growing increasingly concerned that the stalemate at Babergh could prevent any merger – and are starting to consider other options if there is no breakthrough in the New Year.

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