‘Watch this space’ on future merger of Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich

The future of Babergh’s soon-to-close offices and the growing ties with Mid Suffolk were discussed by councillors in Sudbury last week.

During the district councillors’ updates at Sudbury Town Council’s full council meeting, mayor Sue Ayres told members the district council offices in Corks Lane, Hadleigh, were likely to be closed by September.

Babergh district council offices

Picture Mark Westley

Babergh district council offices Picture Mark Westley

Babergh and Mid Suffolk will be leaving their respective offices and moving to the county council’s headquarters at Endeavour House in Ipswich.

September is also set to mark the opening of new customer access points in Stowmarket and Sudbury.

Mrs Ayres revealed the Sudbury point would be at the town hall and run by existing town council staff.

The district council has also set up a new phone line and website.

Simon Barrett

Simon Barrett

Asked for more details, fellow Sudbury town and Babergh district councillor Simon Barrett said a design and planning team had been put in place for the current headquarters in Hadleigh and Needham Market.

“Because of Government grant cuts, we are trying to work out ways of generating funding,” said Mr Barrett.

“Options for the future use of the sites will be presented to the September council meeting.

“District councils are now using their capital to try to create income. Corks Lane is one of these.

“In the long-term, we are looking to be income generators. We are looking at how we can develop the sites to get the best return from the capital we already possess. There is no way we are just going to sell them.

“If these income streams are coming in, this will be redistributed into local communities and, with Sudbury being one of the biggest towns, we will probably get a fair share.”

When asked whether the movement of the two district councils to Ipswich meant the authorities would merge in the future – something people voted against in a referendum in 2011 – Mr Barrett said: “Watch this space.”

He added: “Do we need three levels of local authority? I think not.”

Mr Barrett said that, since the Localism Act of 2011, a referendum would not be required to merge the two councils.

He added that, in his own opinion, he would he would be happy to put a merger on a party mandate and either get elected or not.

A merger is not on the current Conservative administrations mandate.

Six years ago, residents in Babergh voted against a formal merger with Mid Suffolk – a point that has not stopped the two authorities sharing staff and services.