Opposition councillors claim people of Hadleigh and east Babergh feel “abandoned” since the district council relocated out of the town, as they prepare to submit a motion for improved access to services for residents in the area.
Babergh District Council moved out of its long-time headquarters in Cork Lane, Hadleigh, to Endeavour House in Ipswich, the base of Suffolk County Council, last year, in an effort to help services be more efficient by pooling and sharing resources.
But the move was controversial, with critics stating it removed the council from the people it was supposed to be representing.
Two Labour councillors have now put forward a motion, which will be considered at a full council meeting on Tuesday, that calls for an access point to be set up in Hadleigh, arguing that the promises made to residents have not been fulfilled.
The motion – proposed by Sudbury South councillor Luke Cresswell and seconded by Great Cornard North councillor Tony Bavington – says the access point should be set up and operational without delay, and have similar capabilities to the point in Sudbury.
Cllr Cresswell, who is also a Sudbury town councillor, said: “This motion is the last chance to save Hadleigh from being abandoned by the Tories for good.
“When the Tory leadership made the disgraceful decision to move our council out of our own district, a promise was given that an access point would be provided in both Sudbury and in Hadleigh.
“That promise has not been fulfilled and I put this motion forward to remind the council leadership of its commitments, and make it clear that we should not leave residents without access to their council.
“Not only do I think it is important to keep your promises, I also believe many people in Babergh, particularly those who are most vulnerable, have been abandoned by the council and have had access to vital support and services denied.
“It is not fair on many Babergh residents who have to travel great distances to get to Sudbury to get assistance, and it is not fair on Sudbury Town Council, which is therefore dealing with more users than anticipated and potentially more cost.
“Sudbury residents should not have to subsidise Babergh services because of false Tory promises.
“Those who do not have access to a computer, or do not know how to use such technology, are being forgotten. Residents who have no access to a vehicle or transport are being denied access to support.
“This is simply wrong and it’s time the council took responsibility for providing decent services.
“This is an opportunity for the council to take responsibility, finally deliver on a long-standing promise and, quite frankly, do the right thing.”
However, Peter Patrick, Babergh cabinet member for finance and organisational delivery, said it had always been made clear that there would only be two customer access points – one in Sudbury and the other in Stowmarket.
He added the council is looking to identify a long-term opportunity, possibly with a different partner, to facilitate public access to their services.
“We are delighted the customer access facility at Sudbury Town Hall is up and running, with staff providing valuable advice and assistance with access to the council’s services,” he said
“We attempted to reassure residents in Hadleigh that, once the council offices were closed in the autumn, alternative means of access to advice would be made available.
“To that end, discussions have been held with the town council with a view to engaging their staff and facilities, and I pay tribute, in particular, to Cllr Grandon, member for Hadleigh South, for acting as an intermediary with a view to achieving a satisfactory resolution.
“Town council staff can assist in signposting customers to our telephone service and our website information.
“We are particularly mindful of the need to ensure that access is open to all, including vulnerable customers; a building will have to be suitable for this purpose.
“Once such a facility is available, it will receive full publicity.”