West Suffolk authority plans sent to Westminster as proposal gets go-ahead from local councillors

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Forest Heath Council approved the proposal that would see the creation of West Suffolk Council, formed by the merger of Forest Heath Council, which covers Newmarket and Mildenhall and the Bury St Edmunds-based St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

Cllr James Waters, leader of Forest Heath, said: “Doing what is right for our communities is at the heart of what we do.

“Staying still is not an option if we are to meet future challenges and better champion our communities, both locally and nationally, as well as continue to deliver high quality services.

“This means we are not only in a better position to have a louder voice but a real opportunity to find more effective ways to work more closely and support our local organisations and residents.”

Both councils already share most services and earlier this week members of St Edmundsbury Borough Council also endorsed the plans.

Forest Heath said the business case it had produced to support the merger would see an extra £800,000 a year saved in addition to the £4 million of annual savings already produced by sharing services.

The proposal was agreed by 25 votes to one, with only Brandon East UKIP councillor Peter Ridgwell voting against.

He told councillors: “I’d go along with this if we weren’t doing The Hub at Mildenhall. The Hub is going to cost us a lot of money to use. It will cost £800,000.”

Interrupted by councillors’ cries of “rubbish,” the council leader said that The Hub was a vital community facility that Mildenhall needed.

“When you talk about the money that’s the savings,” said Cllr Waters.

The consensus continued. Cllr Nigel Roman said: “I hope people realise that it’s not a power grab.” Referencing comments made on Facebook about the council’s plans, looking at the empty public gallery he said: “I’ve noticed all the keyboard warriors would not make that accusation in person. This plan will make us suitable for the future.”

The proposal is now being sent to the Department for Communities and Local Government secretary, Sajid Javid, to put forward for parliamentary approval.

Independent pollsters ComRes reported that 65 per cent of residents have a favourable view of the changed structure, with 19 per cent against.