Councils move towards merger

TWO of the smallest district councils in Suffolk could merge to form a single organisation providing services from Sudbury and Shotley to the Norfolk border.

Paul Geater

TWO of the smallest district councils in Suffolk could merge to form a single organisation providing services from Sudbury and Shotley to the Norfolk border.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils are being recommended by their respective chief executives to move ahead with the proposals to help reduce costs and increase capacity.

Both are facing challenging economic times with the threat of job cuts - 17 posts are under threat at Babergh.

The two councils already have a joint contract with a private contractor for the collection of household waste and recycling materials.

They have also held talks about other services which could be merged.

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Both councils are supporters of unitary reform of local government in Suffolk but if this does not go ahead, the two chief executives are recommending that they work towards operational and managerial integration.

Ultimately the political side could also merge if councillors want this.

Merging two councils by mutual consent cannot be achieved in UK local government without the need for parliamentary legislation.

This would take time, but the council chiefs believe it would be the way forward if unitary proposals do not work out.

The proposals for integration are being recommended to the Mid Suffolk executive next Monday and Babergh's strategy committee on Thursday.

At present the councils have two chief executives and two headquarters buildings - at Hadleigh and Needham Market.

A spokesman for Babergh said it is far too early to decide what could happen to them - there was still a long way to go before any merger could actually take place.