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Mid Suffolk and Babergh merger plans are put on hold until 2023 at the earliest

Plans to merge Mid Suffolk and Babergh district councils have been shelved until at least 2023, it has emerged.

The councils had been pursuing work towards uniting into a single authority in 2018, but halted when then-county council leader Colin Noble announced he was exploring potential for a unitary council.

That work was scrapped when Matthew Hicks replaced Mr Noble as the county’s leader, but Babergh leader John Ward and then-Mid Suffolk leader Nick Gowrley stated in April this year a formal merger was still the end goal.

Mid Suffolk District Council, Endeavour House (15788472)
Mid Suffolk District Council, Endeavour House (15788472)

Now, it has emerged uniting the councils has been ruled out by the current administrations and will not be discussed again until after the 2023 elections at the earliest.

Conservative Babergh leader Mr Ward said other priorities, such as the new joint local plan, were the primary focus.

The two councils already share many resources and are both housed with Suffolk County Council at Endeavour House, Ipswich

In April, Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils were dissolved and a new united West Suffolk Council formed, while Waveney and Suffolk Coastal councils merged into East Suffolk Council.

Mergers between authorities traditionally generate savings and efficiencies through shared resources and fewer councillor numbers, but Babergh’s opposition Green group said any additional savings would be minimal given they were already sharing.

Mid Suffolk’s opposition Green group said it preferred to have four unitary authorities which would carry out all council services, with Suffolk County Council scrapped. Changes would need to be put to a public vote, according to the group.

A spokesman added: “Disruptive changes are not worthwhile unless they are forming unitary councils.”

During this year’s elections, Mid Suffolk’s Conservatives failed to gain an overall majority and hold power at the authority by virtue of uniting with Independent councillor Gerard Brewster and holding the casting vote of the chairman.

It is understood the Tories’ precarious position there means it would struggle to pass a policy through if the opposition Green and Liberal Democrat groups were against it.

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