Leader keen to shore up councils merger

NEXT year’s district council elections in Mid Suffolk and Babergh could be the last for the authorities in the current form.

That was the blunt message from Mid Suffolk leader Tim Passmore as discussions continued about merging the authorities’ administrative functions.

Merger proposals were announced earlier this year which would see the councils share a single chief executive and senior management team.

At that time it was said a political merger could not be considered because it would require parliamentary legislation.

However, Mr Passmore now believes that a full merger may be possible by the middle of the decade.

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He said: “The merger is progressing well. I don’t think it will be fully completed by April next year because there is a lot to do and a lot of appointments to be made.

“But I think that we will eventually be able to move to a full political link-up.

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“There are currently 83 councillors between us – 43 at Babergh and 40 in Mid Suffolk. I would think that eventually we could have an authority with 55 councillors.

“Democracy does have its own costs and we are not immune from the economic problems facing the country.”

He said there would not be time to change political structure before the elections in May next year, but by the time the next elections were due – in 2015 – he expected a single council to have been set up. As merger discussions continued, Mr Passmore said he was aware of the unsettling effect this was having on staff.

“There will be fewer posts – that is one of the aims of the exercise, to cut costs – but I have no idea of numbers yet,” he said.

“What I would say is that the people most likely to be affected are those at the top of the organisations in management roles.”

He was concerned to end the uncertainty as soon as possible, adding: “We hope to move towards a conclusion to these discussions at the end of the year.

“When you have this uncertainty it is only natural for people to start looking for other jobs and we could end up losing staff we really want to keep.”

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