Councils will merge in 2013

PROPOSALS to merge Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils have been put back a year. It will not now happen until April 2013 at the earliest.

But members of Babergh gave their support to the proposed merger by an overwhelming majority after a lively debate at their Hadleigh headquarters.

The leadership of both councils had hoped to complete the merger by April 2012, but an amendment calling for the merger to be postponed for a year was backed by a huge majority.

Once that was accepted strategy committee chairman Nicholas Ridley said the district faced huge challenges with expected funding cuts from the government.

Merging the two councils would help to protect services and give the area a bigger voice.

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Opposition to the move was lead by sole Labour councillor Tony Bavington, who said there was little in common between the east and west of Babergh – let alone with towns and villages near the Norfolk border in Mid Suffolk.

He said: “I’m not against mergers, just against this merger. If we were talking about splitting Babergh down the middle and moving the east into a unitary East Suffolk and the west into a unitary West Suffolk that would be fine.”

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Another to oppose the merger was Pinewood Liberal Democrat David Busby, who had urged the council to defer discussions about it until a full independent audit of the figures had been carried out.

But Conservative group leader Jennie Jenkins said it was vital that the merger should go ahead.

She said: “We are facing great challenges in the years ahead and we need this to go ahead.”

The council had hoped that next May’s elections could be called off. Instead there would just be a referendum on the proposed merger.

However, the government has indicated it was unlikely to approve the cancellation of elections – and these are now likely to take place alongside the referendum.

Mid Suffolk Council leader Tim Passmore was disappointed that the merger had been delayed, but was heartened by the support from Babergh.

His authority is due to debate the proposed merger tomorrow evening – and is expected to approve the move.

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