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Newly-elected Babergh District Council leader Deborah Saw pledges to tackle housing issues, empower communities and address climate change





The newly-elected leader of Babergh District Council has pledged to tackle housing issues, empower communities and address climate change.

Cllr Deborah Saw replaces Cllr John Ward, who had been acting leader since last summer after Cllr Dave Busby was forced to step back to receive cancer treatment.

She will lead the Green, Independent and Liberal Democrat coalition administration for the next year.

Cllr Deborah Saw is the new leader of Babergh District Council. Picture: Babergh District Council
Cllr Deborah Saw is the new leader of Babergh District Council. Picture: Babergh District Council

Outlining a new coalition action plan, Cllr Saw said: “It’s a privilege to become Babergh’s first Green council leader.

“We are confronted by a series of challenges, including a council house repair backlog and a looming budget deficit.

“That comes on top of the shameful growing dependency of our citizens on food banks, the pressing need to help young people find homes, and the necessity to tackle pollution and climate change.

“One thing is clear, we can’t have business as usual. We need to rethink, rebuild and repair.”

Cllr Saw said the council’s £6.7m budget gap over the next four years would mean ‘tough decisions’, but also required ‘innovative’ approaches.

“We have to be more innovative in identifying solutions that our communities need, helping them to deliver change at the grassroots level,” she said,

“We need to get better at communicating and working with communities so we can more easily win the little funding that might be available from central government.

“Our vision is to see towns and villages empowered to develop solutions to issues that matter to them, while being supported by the council.”

With nearly £1 million ialready invested to clear a repairs backlog, Cllr Saw said efforts to continue improving Babergh’s council housing for tenants remained an urgent priority, with the introduction of new systems and improved communication with tenants pledged.

The council wants to encourage more community-led housing and stimulate the formation of Community Land Trusts which results in community ownership of land for affordable housing.

Currently, the district’s only scheme that has built new housing is in Lavenham.

Cllr Saw said more parishes will be supported to complete Neighbourhood Plans or People and Place Plans to help shape future development, with a renewed emphasis on good design in residential and commercial buildings.

She said: “Neighbourhood Plans produce a wealth of information about what communities need, and we want to make better use of this.”

She added work to remove red tape around making listed buildings more energy efficient will continue, while Babergh also hopes to become the first council to allow property owners to put solar panels on outbuildings without planning permission.

Further action to combat climate change was also outlined, including a desire to explore how communities can create local renewable energy plans.

Cllr Saw said working with partners like Citizens Advice to help people through the cost-of-living crisis continues to be a priority, with further discussions taking place about how the council can work with communities to deliver additional support services.

Cllr John Ward, who had been acting leader since last summer, resumes his role as deputy leader, with Cllr Busby as political deputy leader.

Cllr Elisabeth Malvisi was re-elected chair of the council and Cllr Ruth Hendry was elected vice-chair.