Concerns raised over future of council wards in West Suffolk
Concerns have been raised by community leaders from Rougham and Bury St Edmunds’ Moreton Hall estate about the future of their wards.
Councillors this week voted to send options for wards in the new West Suffolk Council to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) to make a final decision.
New council wards for the West Suffolk Council need to be created as the suggested number of councillors will reduce, in line with the LGBCE’s guidance, from 72 to 64.
However, options for Moreton Hall and Rushbrooke with Rougham have proved contentious.
Representatives from both areas raised concerns that their ward/parish could be split in two.
At St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s meeting on Tuesday night, Ian Steel, chairman of Rushbrooke with Rougham Parish Council, said: “I would remind the borough council that in 2016 that it voted to support the submission from this parish for an identifiable and recognisable boundary with Bury St Edmunds which included within this parish the new Taylor Wimpey development.”
The parish council proposes a single-councillor ward ‘based largely on the current ward’.
Cliff Hind, chairman of Moreton Hall Residents Association, said the new homes in the Rougham parish ‘should be in Moreton Hall ward’.
He said they would like their ward boundary to be Sow Lane to the east, Orttewell Road to the west, the railway line to the north and the A14 to the south.
At a meeting of Forest Heath District Council on Wednesday, members representing Brandon were concerned that the reduction of councillors for the town, which would have three seats as opposed to the curent five, would see their locality budget cut by 40 per cent.
Cllr Victor Lukaniuk said: “A 40 per cent reduction seems like we have come under the cosh a bit. Brandon does function all right with three district councillors. We have soldiered along and taken up all the slack.
“But a 40 per cent reduction means we also get a 40 per cent reduction in our locality budgets. We will have three councillors and the locality budget are not changing. It’s a deprived area. If we lose 40 per cent of our locality budget how will we change that.”
Cllr David Palmer said: “I feel 40 per cent reduction for Brandon is far too much considering Bury St Edmunds is getting a six per cent reduction. Three councillors is insufficient in Brandon. That’s the feeling for me and other Brandon members and members of the public I speak to.”
Cllr Simon Cole, chairman of Forest Heath’s overview and scrutiny committee, said: “This was always going to be the case because Bury St Edmunds’ wards are larger.”
Alex Wilson, director at West Suffolk councils, said that a policy paper would be submitted which would re-evaluate the amount members receive for their locality budget, but that comments from Brandon members will be noted in the report to the boundary commission.
After the meetings, St Edmundsbury Cllr Carol Bull and Forest Heath Cllr Ruth Bowman, chair and vice-chair of the future governance steering group, in a joint statement, said: “One of the things we thought was crucial in creating this new council was that there should continue to be good local representation across West Suffolk.
“The views and engagement by local people and organisations as well as from councillors themselves has been vital in helping shape the various proposals and options that both councils looked at.
“Both councils have agreed all options that were put forward should be sent to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England who will have the final decision.
“There is no perfect solution and this is a complex issue but people can still submit their own options when the LGBCE holds its own consultation.
“We would like to thank everyone who has taken part so far and helped shape the options we have put forward.”
The commission will draft its proposals in May for public consultation in July.