Bury St Edmunds: Thousand of pounds of taxpayers’ money could be saved if Bury Town Council move in with St Edmundsbury Borough Council

Bury Town Council Building on Angel Hill

Bury Town Council Building on Angel Hill - Credit: Gregg Brown

Thousands of pounds of taxpayers money could be saved if the town council move out of their Angel Hill premises and into West Suffolk House.

Rent, rates and overheads at Angel Hill total around £45,000 every year and town councillor Peter Thompson believes that the money would be better spent elsewhere.

However, the Bury Town Council (BTC) chairman Stefan Oliver has said savings are not the only consideration, saying the move would threaten the council’s independence.

Cllr Thompson said: “I don’t believe the town council, in its current form, should exist.

“They made the decision to half the occupancy here [at Angel Hill] but it is still too much. We can’t justify spending so much on a building.”

“We have Western Way [West Suffolk House] just round the corner – we don’t need this space.”

The council’s primary role is distributing grant money to local projects and charities, receiving around £190,000 in council tax income a year.

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West Suffolk House, which is jointly owned by SEBC and Suffolk County Council is currently home to several public service bodies including the Local Government Association and HM Revenue and Customs.

Cllr Stefan Oliver said: “We do not know what the borough would ask us to pay to be there, so we don’t know if it would be cheaper.

“We made the decision to stay at Angel Hill and half our occupancy, saving money already.

“Even if there were savings to be made by merging, it is not the only consideration.

“It would threaten our independence. I would imagine, if we were allowed to move in, they would want to see an end to that.”

Cllr Oliver also had concerns over public perception. “It is confusing enough already, with the Forest Heath merger, people would get even more confused if we moved in,” he said.

A SEBC spokesman said: “West Suffolk House is designed to be shared by a range of organisations, and delivers savings for the taxpayer as well as better coordinated services.

“If the Town Council or any other partner is interested in joining us in the building, the Borough and County Councils would be happy to discuss whether it would be suitable for them.”

For the financial year 2013/14, according to published finance reports, costs associated with the Angel Hill building, including business rates, rents, services charges, cleaning, maintenance, equipment and IT services, came to around £44,000.

The predicted total for the financial year 2014/15 is £45,000, out of a total budget of around £200,000.