Could Babergh and Mid Suffolk split if merger plans fail to take off?

Nick Gowrley , leader of Mid Suffolk District Council and Jennie Jenkins, leader of Babergh District

Nick Gowrley , leader of Mid Suffolk District Council and Jennie Jenkins, leader of Babergh District Council - but will Babergh backbench opposition drive the two councils apart? - Credit: Archant

Councillors at both Babergh and Mid Suffolk have warned that their joint administration could be under threat if merger plans fail to develop.

And meanwhile opposition councillors at Babergh are considering tabling a motion of no confidence in chairman Peter Burgoyne after he “stormed out” of a scrutiny meeting earlier this week.

Mr Burgoyne left the meeting after it decided to refer the decision to hold a consultation on a possible merger with Mid Suffolk to the whole authority – effectively delaying a final decision. He then said Babergh councillors needed to “grow up” and realise that a merger was the only way forward.

Independent councillor Derek Davis said many members in the Conservative-controlled authority had been angered by the way Mr Burgoyne had left the meeting early.

A dozen Independent, Labour and Lib Dem councillors requested the decision be called in and Tony Bavington (Lab) and Cllr David Busby (Lib Dem) outlined the reasons.

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Mr Bavington said: “No one could credibly argue that the dissolution of Babergh itself is not a Key Decision in the meaning of its new Constitution. This is decision would have a ‘significant effect on communities living or working in an area made up of two or more wards’.”

However there are fears among leading members of both councils that if the merger does not go ahead the existing joint administration could not survive.

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Some members of Mid Suffolk, which has always favoured a merger, are understood to have considered the possibility with seeking an arrangement with another authority if the merger option is rejected.

But Mid Suffolk leader Nick Gowrley said the leaderships of both councils were keen to consult residents about the future shapes of the authorities.

He said: “We took the decision at a joint cabinet last month and at the moment we are planning to go ahead with asking people what they think of the proposals. I am aware of the Babergh scrutiny meeting but I was not there myself.”

Mr Gowrley did not comment on what Mid Suffolk might do if the merger did not happen – but he did not feel the current situation with two councils operating with a single administration could continue indefinitely.

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