The two west Suffolk councils will next week make the final decision on their representation to the Boundary Commission on future wards.
Officers are recommending that all 87 responses to their three week consultation on suggestions for wards in the new West Suffolk District Council should go to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) along with the councils’ preferences.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council will consider it on Tuesday and Forest Heath District on Wednesday, but it will be the LGBCE that makes the final decision and it can consider views put to it directly.
It will start drafting its proposals in May for public consultation in July.
Officers had to consider all suggestions made by the public and councillors against the commission’s criteria for electoral quality, community identity and interest and for effective and convenient government.
Where changes suggested resulted in improvements against those criteria and did not adversely affect a ward’s neighbours, they have been included in the options. Where they impact on other wards they have still been included in the ward options ‘narrative’ so the LGBCE can take it into consideration.
Next week, councillors will be invited to discuss all the options one-by-one and can make their own suggestions to go to the commission.
The majority of representations (53) were about rural wards. As a result of comments one of the ‘other options’ included is the idea of moving Icklingham into the Manor ward, with Tuddenham and Cavenham, where the current proposal is for it to be in the Risby and Barnham ward because they are linked by the A1101.
There were two proposals for Moreton Hall Ward in Bury St Edmunds. One created a Moreton Hall South East Ward, taking in Rougham Industrial Estate while the Rougham Ward’s northern boundary was along the A14. The other had Moreton Hall East as a separate ward with Rougham ward going to the railway north of the A14.
Officers say the responses were so evenly balanced that the recommendation is that both suggestions, along with any other public views, go to the LGBCE.
The council’s steering group’s preferred options for Brandon and Mildenhall were those with three wards with a councillor each, rather than two wards with the larger one having two councillors. Officers say this reflects public representations in Brandon and views given at a Mildenhall Parish Council meeting.
For Newmarket the group backed the town council’s preferred option of six wards with a councillor each instead of three larger ones with two councillors each.
Both options for Haverhill had six wards, but the preferred option is that feedback favoured one with a Central ward around the High Street, rather than further west, and the boundary between the North and West wards along Park Road instead of Withersfield Road.
Councillors Carol Bull, of St Edmundsbury, and Ruth Bowman, from Forest Heath, chairwoman and vice-chairwoman of the of the Future Governance Steering Group, in a joint statement said: “One of the things we thought was crucial in creating this new council was that there should continue to be good local representation across West Suffolk.
“The views and engagement by local people and organisations as well as from councillors themselves has been vital in helping shape the various proposals and options that both councils will look at.
“We and the steering group would like to thank all those who took part and the time people have taken to look at this important but complex issue.
“We wanted to put forward something that not only meets the guidelines but has had local input to help the LGBCE’s deliberations. We recognise there is no perfect solution and we would urge people to submit their own proposals for the LGBCE to consider as part of their review.”