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Councillors demand second referendum for Mid Suffolk residents on proposed Mid Suffolk and Babergh council merger

PUBLISHED: 15:26 23 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:39 23 February 2018

Babergh council leader John Ward with his opposite number from Mid Suffolk, Nick Gowrley. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Babergh council leader John Ward with his opposite number from Mid Suffolk, Nick Gowrley. Picture: PAUL GEATER

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A group of Mid Suffolk opposition councillors has called for local residents to have their say on the controversial merger proposed for Mid Suffolk and Babergh councils.

Penny Otton, Leader of the Mid Suffolk Liberal Democrats, issued a statement on behalf of the group demanding a referendum for the people of Mid Suffolk, who have not been offered another opportunity to vote since the last referendum on the proposed merger back in 2011.

This is despite Babergh residents being promised a second referendum following the election of the council’s new Leader John Ward in January.

Ms Otton said: “We wish to have a referendum for residents of Mid Suffolk to have the opportunity to vote on the proposed merger with Babergh council. It seems illogical and un-democratic if Babergh residents are given the chance to have their say on a merger, but Mid Suffolk folk cannot. Therefore it is quite legitimate to set aside a sum to pay for it.

“How can any decision, either way, be democratic if only one side are given their oppion by a referendum and the rest of us cannot? This is such an important decision that must not just be left to officers and a few council leaders.”

Mid Suffolk residents voted in favour of a referendum back in 2011, while the people of Babergh voted against.

Andrew Stringer, Group Leader of the Green Party representatives at Suffolk County Council, said he agreed that a second referendum was necessary.

He said: “I believe that the electorate deserve another say on this, Things have changed since the 11% majority of the advisory poll [held in 2011]. Surely the public of Mid Suffolk deserve their voice to be taken seriously?”

Mr Ward said before he was elected in January that he would be holding a referendum before any attempt to merge Babergh council with Mid Suffolk.

Speaking after he was elected he said it was clear that the council wanted a referendum to be held, but he did not know of any timescale for a vote.

He said: “We will have to sit down and look at what happens next, but any merger is not going to happen before 2019 (when the next council elections are due)”.

The councils already share a single administration based in Suffolk County Council’s Endeavour House headquarters in Ipswich.

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