Mid Suffolk/Babergh: Councils look at option to move in with Suffolk County Council but with satellite offices in the districts. How would this affect you?

Babergh District Council, Corks Lane, Hadleigh.

Babergh District Council, Corks Lane, Hadleigh.

Mid Suffolk and Babergh district councils could move in with Suffolk County Council at its Ipswich headquarters, it has emerged.

A relocation to Endeavour House is one of the options being considered by the two district authorities next week, as they look to save millions of pounds.

It would mean a move for most of the 560 employees based at Mid Suffolk’s current Needham Market base, plus Babergh’s Hadleigh offices.

Ironically, it would also mean the two councils – which have worked increasingly closely in recent years to save taxpayers’ money – having their headquarters in an entirely different district.

However, they stress there would also be several satellite offices serving residents closer to home.

Last night, council chiefs admitted the issue would be “hugely emotive”.

One of the reasons the option is favoured is because it could help improve services and make the councils more efficient, according a review carried out by property consultants Lambert Smith Hampton.

Andrew Hunkin, Mid Suffolk and Babergh’s corporate director, said: “What’s clear is that every organisation needs to be working closer together…as a whole the public sector knows it needs to be working more closer together if they are to become more efficient and effective.”

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The move may remind some of a proposal in 2008 to create a single, unitary council in Suffolk to save an estimated £50million – although there is no suggestion the latest development is a forerunner to a similar scheme. The unitary Suffolk idea was dropped in 2010.

The other preferred option is to have the satellite offices again in district towns but with the administration base in the “Ipswich Fringe” area.

All options considered are more cost efficient than the current arrangements, the review argues. Both offices cost around £1m a year to run.

The most cost-effective choice would be to move to the Hadleigh office, followed closely with locating Babergh at Needham Market.

But those options should be “discarded”, according to the councils’ paper which follows the review.

Both scored poorly compared to the Suffolk County Council relocation option for providing “modern” and “flexible” collaborative organisations.

Jennie Jenkins, Babergh’s council leader, said: “We have to be very careful because this will be a hugely emotive decision for people and not just for myself and Derrick Haley (leader of Mid Suffolk).

“I have 43 members and he has 40 and we have got to be careful. The paper will be going to Babergh’s strategy committee with a view for a decision on the options going to full council because every member has to be involved.”

If the councils decide to take forward one of the options next week a full business case evaluation would then start.

Mr Hunkin said a final decision on whether to then go-ahead with that further developed proposal would be made after the next elections, in May next year.

A spokesman for the county council said it would continue to support the districts’ work in evaluating moving to Endeavour House.

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