The news that, whilst Mid Suffolk residents voted 3:2 in favour of a merger with Babergh, Babergh residents voted just as strongly against, comes as less of a surprise than might have been thought.
On the doorstep, where there was mention of the merger, comment was fairly negative. However, for those who have little interest in the architecture of local government (and I understand that 99.8% of the public fall into that category), the promise of smaller cuts to services was key. The catch was, the pro-merger publicity didn't tell the whole story.
Oh yes, the merger of back office services will save money - it isn't actually dependent on political merger taking place. What political merger was intended to achieve was to cut the number of councillors. All well and good, but the whole point of local government, especially at District Council level, is that it is close to the public. Making the wards 50% bigger, whilst leaving the councillor allowances unchanged, would have made finding willing candidates to actually be councillors, as opposed to just candidates, more difficult than it currently is.
And it is difficult. I appear to be the only person in my ward of 1822 electors who actually wants to be a councillor - the sitting Tory councillor lives in Eye, Labour supplied a paper candidate from Stowmarket, and the Green candidate, whilst local, studiously avoided any activity that might have brought him to the attention of voters.
Is £3,000 sufficient to compensate for the costs of travelling to council meetings, visiting the various Parishes in the ward - up to ten in some cases in Mid Suffolk, and they do expect to see you - or the time lost having to read vast piles of papers? You might wonder. You'll wonder even more if the area you're responsible is increased by half again.
It was never made clear how a merged council would support and enable a reduced number of councillors to properly represent their electors, or how residents in Eye would be connected to a headquarters in Hadleigh (and yes, some services would have been based there).
In the end, I voted no, despite the fact that my colleagues on Mid Suffolk District Council had supported the proposal. As they discovered, whilst the outcome might have been vaguely agreeable, the implications had not been thought through. To be honest, that's pretty typical of Suffolk Conservatives - officer led, intellectually flabby and in some cases positively allergic to dealing with anyone beyond the Parish councillors. So, it's back to the drawing board...