Referendum is sought on plans

A BURY St Edmunds councillor is calling for residents to be able to vote on the county council’s controversial plans to outsource services.

Green Party councillor Mark Ereira-Guyer has proposed a Suffolk-wide community referendum to establish whether there is mass support for the authority’s divestment policy.

The motion, which has been seconded by fellow Green councillor Andrew Stringer, who represents the Upper Gipping division, will be discussed at a meeting of the full council on Thursday.

The county council plans to transfer the operation of services such as libraries and youth clubs to other organisations, including community groups as well as the voluntary and private sectors.

The move is part of the authority’s New Strategic Direction which aims to make £125 million in savings over the next four years. Bosses have already agreed £42.5 million in budget cuts this year.

Cllr Ereira-Guyer, who represents the Tower division, put forward plans for a referendum after hearing little support for the strategy from his constituents.

He said: “There doesn’t seem to be any public enthusiasm, support or endorsement for the NSD. Nobody has written to me yet from the community or a parish council saying that they really think it is the answer.

“We’re trying to kick off in the public domain a process of real engagement and say to people ‘last chance saloon here’ because all these services are lined up for divestment.

“If we had a community referendum and they said they do want people to run services that’s fine but we feel that should be put to the test. We would like it to move forward as a real voice of the people.”

He has proposed that the referendum, in a bid to reduce costs, be held on the same day as Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Council’s merger referendum in May.