Opposition grows to merger
SENIOR members of a Suffolk district council preparing for a merger with a neighbouring authority are voicing their growing concern about the proposals.
And their mood was not improved when they attended a training day to find out about the proposals, which left some of them feeling like they were being “treated like 12-year-olds”.
Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils are considering merger proposals which would see officers serving both authorities by the middle of next year.
Ultimately, their leaders want to move to political union as well – but some backbenchers are growing increasingly concerned about the proposals.
Today, Pinewood Liberal Democrat Len Johnson has written a letter to the East Anglian Daily Times outlining his concerns.
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He says: “Each of our councils has its own unique history and its way of working. What we intend to do will have a lasting effect on any future council for years to come.”
While he is not opposed to the principle of a merger, he says it is necessary to spend much more time on the details.
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Meanwhile, fellow Babergh Lib Dem Brian Lazenby was angered by a meeting of councillors from both authorities held at the Stoke by Nayland golf club last Monday. He said: “I thought this was going to be a chance for us to talk things over and find out how we could work together.
“Instead we were pushed around by someone brought in to handle the meeting who treated us like a class full of 12-year-olds.
“Most of us were experienced councillors and don’t have to be treated with disrespect like that!
“I stayed until 2.30, but I wasn’t going to put up with that any longer. It seems as if the officers and the senior councillors just want to push us into this merger.”
The chair of Babergh’s strategy committee Nick Ridley said most of the councillors seemed to find the day very useful – and there was ample spare time to meet others.
“The situation facing local authorities, especially small local authorities like ourselves, is very serious and we have to look at radical solutions like mergers,” he said.
“No decisions have yet been made, but we don’t have unlimited time for this process. We know very tough times are coming and we have to prepare for them.
“If they have any other solutions, I would be delighted to hear from them.”
And Mid Suffolk leader Tim Passmore also felt it was vital to keep up the momentum.
“We have to look at solutions like a merger and days like that on Monday were very successful,” he said.
“I think the facilitator might have been a bit flippant at the start, but things got better and most people seemed happy at the end of the day.”