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Bury St Edmunds Town Trust has issued a formal complaint over Suffolk County Council’s handling of archives closure plan





Campaigners have vowed to battle on to save Bury St Edmunds archives branch after issuing a formal complaint of maladministration.

This afternoon, Suffolk County Council (SCC) will meet to discuss how to balance its budget for the next financial year.

The budget includes controversial plans to move both West and East Suffolk archives branches from Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft to The Hold, in Ipswich, to save £140,000 a year.

Eve Burrows Bury Society member, Martyn Taylor, chair Bury Society, John Popham, Bury St Edmunds Town Trust, with copies of the petition. Picture: Mark Westley
Eve Burrows Bury Society member, Martyn Taylor, chair Bury Society, John Popham, Bury St Edmunds Town Trust, with copies of the petition. Picture: Mark Westley

SSC says it has been left with no choice but to close the Bury branch in Raingate Street, after West Suffolk Council (WSC) decided to scrap the Western Way hub project, where the records would have been stored.

Bury St Edmunds Town Trust has now lodged a maladministration claim with the county council to further fight the move – whatever the budget meeting outcome.

Meanwhile the cabinet member overseeing the archives plan has been replaced in a reshuffle.

Protestors at the West Suffolk Archives branch, Raingate Street, Bury St Edmunds, earlier this year
Protestors at the West Suffolk Archives branch, Raingate Street, Bury St Edmunds, earlier this year

The trust said: “This is a particularly serious case since, in addition to failing to consult the public on the possible closure of an important public archive related to an outstanding historic town, the council has masked its proposed action by including it in its budget with effectively no time to resolve the issue, thereby causing great public anger and concern.”

“The town trust has requested that the closure of the archive be put on hold and a working party be established of interested parties to examine and resolve the matter.

“This has been refused by the county council resulting in the trust’s maladministration claim which, if not properly remedied, may generate an application for judicial review.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Julia Wakelam, vice-chair of West Suffolk Council standards committee, has lodged a motion to be heard at West Suffolk Council’s full council meeting next week.

West Suffolk Councillor Cllr Julia Wakelam
West Suffolk Councillor Cllr Julia Wakelam

It says: “Recognising the severe financial pressure faced by Suffolk County Council, West Suffolk Council nonetheless expresses its sadness at the county council’s proposal to close the West Suffolk archive and centralise this service to Ipswich.

“Therefore, [West Suffolk Council] calls upon Suffolk County Council to suspend the implementation of this change until such time as it has worked with all local stakeholders, including West Suffolk Council and Bury St Edmunds Town Council, to explore all alternative options within the county council’s available capital and revenue budgets for keeping access to local historical records within West Suffolk.”

Cllr Wakelam, said: “The proposal will divorce those in the west from easy access to the papers, documents and pictures currently or formerly held in Bury which form an important part of their history.

Cllr Bobby Bennett. Picture: Suffolk County Council
Cllr Bobby Bennett. Picture: Suffolk County Council

“This will particularly impact the young, those with low incomes or with disabilities. One would have expected such a momentous decision to have been taken only after all other options had been explored and the public properly consulted.”

The Bury Society has also handed a petition to the county council with more than 2,500 signatures against the closure.

Suffolk County Councillor Bobby Bennett, cabinet member for equality and communities, who has been overseeing the archives move has been replaced in a reshuffle.

A spokesman said: "Continuing the changes to children and young people (CYP) leadership, serving cabinet member Cllr Bobby Bennett has been appointed as cabinet member for CYP services.

“Two deputy cabinet members have been promoted to cabinet roles – Cllr Philip Faircloth-Mutton is now cabinet member for equality and communities and Cllr Craig Rivett is cabinet member for public health and public protection."