‘No’ to merger

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RESIDENTS living in two Suffolk districts have voted to keep their councils separate –missing out on savings of £800,000.

But the voters have spoken, with 50.3 per cent choosing to keep Mid Suffolk District Council and Babergh District Council as separate authorities.

The councils had agreed on plans to merge, forming one single district council and resulting in estimated savings of £800,000 a year.

But councillors on each authority had agreed that the full merger would only go ahead if more than 50 per cent of voters in both districts backed the plans. Residents had the chance to have their say and when the poll closed on Monday it was a very close result, with 49.7 percent of voters saying yes.

Although integration of staff and services will continue – with estimated joint annual savings of £1 million after 2013/2014 – the full merger will now not go ahead, meaning the councils will miss out on a further £800,000 of savings that could have been achieved through running one single council. Both councils now face the challenge of making financial savings elsewhere.

Residents living in Mid Suffolk were generally favourable towards the merger, with 59.9 per cent of 32,061 resident who voted, backing the proposals. But in Babergh 60.9 per cent of 31,468 of residents who voted were against the merger. The total turn out for the poll in both districts was 44.1 percent.

Cllr Tim Passmore, leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “It is extremely disappointing that we have a split view from our local communities about our innovative approach.

“We still face the difficult challenge of meeting very demanding financial savings while delivering frontline services and it is unfortunate that we cannot work more closely to achieve our radical and innovative idea for a merger.”

Cllr Jennie Jenkins, chairman of Babergh’s strategy committee, said: “Local people have spoken and from these results those in Babergh are telling us not to go for the merger. We are in very tough times financially and the estimated additional savings from running one council rather than two, will now have to be found elsewhere.”

But some Babergh councillors who had expressed concerns about the proposals are ‘relieved’ by the poll result. Cllr Sue Carpendale, leader of the Babergh Liberal Democrats, said that ‘breathing space’ is needed to concentrate on the integration of services.

Charlie Adan, chief executive of Babergh and Mid Suffolk, urged everyone to put their differences behind them and support the councils as they strive to make savings.