Renewed call for referendum on proposed merger of Mid Suffolk and Babergh councils

Cllr Penny Otton
Cllr Penny Otton

A councillor has issued a renewed call for a referendum on the proposed merger of Mid Suffolk and Babergh district councils, following the results of a telephone survey.

Penny Otton, leader of the Mid Suffolk Liberal Democrats, renewed her referendum call following a telephone survey of 2,000 residents from each district, saying it would be ‘undemocratic’ if a referendum took place in Babergh as planned but not in Mid Suffolk.

The results of the independent survey, conducted by market research company ComRes, were released on Tuesday and show 62 per cent of residents (54 per cent in Babergh and 69 per cent in Mid Suffolk) are in favour of the creation of a single council.

“I still think that if Babergh goes ahead with its referendum then it’s undemocratic that the residents of Mid Suffolk – all the residents, not just the tiny percentage contacted for the telephone survey – have the right to put their views forward in a referendum,” said Cllr Otton.

A referendum on the merger was last held in Mid Suffolk in 2011.

Nick Gowrley, Mid Suffolk District Council leader, said: “The results of this independent telephone survey reinforce the views expressed by Mid Suffolk electors in the 2011 referendum and clearly show that more residents in Mid Suffolk are in favour and unconcerned about the proposed creation of a single council than there were back in 2011.

“Our residents have spoken and they are clear what they want us to do, now is the time to put this to the Secretary of State and make this a reality.”

Overall, the survey showed support from electors for five key objectives of creating a single district council:

- Long term financial stability to protect the services most important to residents (93 per cent)

- Delivering services better tailored to the needs of residents (93 per cent)

- Meet the challenges facing local government (89 per cent)

- Maintain low Council Tax (88 per cent)

- Create better relationships with local communities (88 per cent)

John Ward, Babergh District Council leader, said: “It was essential that we carried out this engagement to understand current public opinion in Babergh to inform the business case for creating a new council. Once the business case has been drafted and fully debated by all councillors, then it will be put to the electors of Babergh to vote on through a referendum this summer.”