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Babergh District Council office to close?

Babergh district council offices''Picture Mark Westley ANL-160726-221524009
Babergh district council offices''Picture Mark Westley ANL-160726-221524009

The Conservative Group at Babergh District Council is proposing to close the council’s Hadleigh offices and move to Ipswich.

Following a £24,000 report, it was agreed in 2014 by both Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils to pursue a hub and spokes model which would see both councils move into the Suffolk County Council building, Endeavour House.

In December 2014 then Babergh and Mid Suffolk strategic director Andrew Hunkin said the move would allow the council’s to work closer with other agencies also based in Ipswich.

Simon Barrett, deputy leader of the council, said: “In principle we are investigating the options to move the office body into Ipswich and then have spokes in places such as Sudbury, Hadleigh, Needham Market, Stowmarket and Eye.

“We are bringing this together but we have not gone through the council yet. It was discussed at the Conservative group [for both Babergh and Mid Suffolk] but what we discuss is fairly relevant as we are the administration. There is a lot of work going on as we want to get the right outcomes. We want to ensure access is there for members of the public. But nothing is decided yet.”

Mr Barrett explained there was a hub of sorts in Sudbury, as Sudbury Town Council looks after housing and benefits.

“There are lots of options but nothing is fixed yet,” he said. “We are operating out of two half full buildings at the moment. It’s about saving money.”

He said the offices likely to move to Ipswich were ones where it is unlikely the public had access to anyway.

He added where there was access currently the council would want this to remain.

The move will next be discussed at Babergh’s strategy committee, where Conservative members have all but three seats, with Mr Barrett suggesting a sensible time for the move would be the start of the next financial year.

He added all Babergh staff were being consulted on the move but said it was popular with some staff as it would stop them having to commute between the Babergh and Mid Suffolk sites as many officers have to currently. If the move goes ahead Babergh’s Corks Lane site would be redeveloped for “the best price and best function for the community,” Mr Barrett said.

The South Suffolk Labour Party has reacted angrily to the proposals, saying Conservatives were ‘scrapping the council through the back door’.

A spokesperson for the party said: “The results of local elections, won last year by the Conservatives, deserve respect; democracy demands nothing less. Their victory doesn’t, however, give them a right to overstep the mark in the way they’re now doing.

“Today, Tory plans to sell-off the council offices in Hadleigh and move to Ipswich mean Babergh, as a place that people can identify with, will disappear completely.

“Setting up or scrapping a local council needs an Act of Parliament and popular support. Ignoring that completely, Conservative councillors are trying to do it through the back door.”

On Tuesday night Babergh district councillors agreed that Deborah Cadman, chief executive of Suffolk County Council, should become the temporary head of paid revenue while a replacement is found for Charlie Adan, the councils’ outgoing chief executive. The decision must also be agreed to be Mid Suffolk.

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