Mid Suffolk and Babergh councils set to merge

MOVES to merge Mid Suffolk and Babergh councils into a single district are to gather steam over the next few weeks.

Both councils are set to debate business cases for merger at their meetings over the next few weeks – and if members give their backing to the proposals a referendum for all residents of the two districts is likely to be held next May.

That would be held on the same day as the local elections for the districts.

A business case prepared by officers from both councils suggests that a merged authority, which could come into being as early as April 2012, would save at least �1.3million a year.

The councils were originally looking at sharing a senior management team but retaining separate political structures.

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But changes to local government legislation mean that a full merger between the authorities could come if it is backed by a referendum of voters.

Babergh’s strategy committee chair Nick Ridley said if both councils approved the move at the end of this month, they would go forward with proposals for a referendum next spring.

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They would also seek to have a new chief executive in place for the new authority during the second half of next year.

He said: “The timing may seem quite tight, but the government is keen to see innovative changes like this and we hope to get everything completed within the timescale we are looking at.”

Tim Passmore at Mid Suffolk hoped the proposals would go through as soon as possible – and did not feel they were being rushed.

He said: “Everyone knows there are major spending cuts coming and that local government has to play its part and this will deliver substantial cuts of up to �7 million over three years.

“Some may say we are going to fast – but what the staff at both councils want to know, as well as the councillors, is what the future looks like so we can start making that work.

“That is why it is right to have a fairly tight timescale like this.”

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