Death knell for town council?

A REVIEW of local government in west Suffolk could trigger the collapse of a town council, it has been claimed.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council has embarked on a review of what it calls “community governance” which could see parishes merge or change.

But the review has sparked concerns for the future of Bury St Edmunds Town Council because it is feared estates in the town – such as Moreton Hall – might want to set up their own parish councils.

Roy Bebbington, Independent town council member for Moreton Hall, said he understood why people on the estate would want a separate council.

“There may be a case for going it alone because it is on the other side of the A14 and fairly detached from Bury.

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“But if it is going to happen, they [the borough council] need to think about other areas which want to be ‘parished’. It will be interesting to see what happens.”

Fellow Moreton Hall councillor Clive Springett said he could see the argument for a separate parish council for the estate, now home to about 4,500.

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But town council leader Bob Cockle said if the Moreton Hall estate – famed for boasting the longest life expectancy rates in the UK – did go it alone, the town council would struggle to keep going.

“There is no doubt in my mind that it would split the town council,” he said. “And if Moreton Hall did try to do that then other estates might try to follow suit.”

Deputy chairman of the town council David Nettleton said: “If Moreton Hall got its own parish council – and I can see the reasons people there would want one – we would lose one-fifth of the income and members.

“The town council would go down to 14 members and there could be a knock-on effect, with other parts of town saying they’d like one too – so you could see St Olave’s Parish Council and so on.

“You could end up with no town council but five different parishes instead.”

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said a report and recommendation about the review will go to its full council on June 29.

“The review will consider the size of parish councils [decreasing and increasing], grouping with another parish to form a parish covering two or more parishes or potentially amending a boundary between two parishes,” she said.

“Reviews like these are needed every 10 to 15 years to make sure that boundaries reflect the growth in parishes and to allow new residents to take part in the elections in their settlements.”

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