Agenda item

Motion on notice - West Suffolk archives (Paper number: COU/WS/24/005)

Councillor Cliff Waterman has given notice of a motion under section 9.3 of the Council Procedure Rules, as attached as Paper number: COU/WS/24/005.


Paragraphs 9.6 to 9.11 of the Council Procedure Rules states:


Each member may put one motion on notice at each Council meeting.  A maximum of three motions may be considered at each Council meeting unless the Chair agrees, by virtue of special urgency, that additional motions may be considered. Any motions that cannot be considered at the meeting will be deferred for consideration at a future meeting of Council.


The motion on notice can be moved and seconded at the meeting by any member.  If the motion on notice is not moved, it will be treated as withdrawn and may not be moved without another notice in accordance with these rules.  A motion may be withdrawn at any time by the proposer of the motion.


Once the motion has been moved and seconded, the Chair will invite members to debate the motion.  Only five members, in addition to the proposer and seconder, may speak to the motion.  Each member may speak only once, for a maximum of three minutes on the motion.  The proposer has the right of reply at the conclusion of the debate for three minutes.


The Chair has the discretion to extend the time allowed and/or the number of speakers to discuss the motion, to allow for the proposer (with the agreement of the seconder) to amend the motion, or to allow for the proposer to respond to questions or points of clarification on the motion.


At the conclusion of the debate, the motion shall be put to a vote and determined by a simple majority of those present and voting.


Where an agreed motion on notice refers a matter to a committee for consideration, then a report shall be presented in due course to the Council on how the motion on notice was considered by that committee and any consequential outcomes as a result.’


(For openness and transparency, Councillor Patrick Chung declared that he was a trustee of the Bury St Edmunds Society. He remained in the meeting and voted on the motion.) 


Under section nine of the Council Procedure Rules detailed in the Constitution, Council had been given written notice of a motion submitted by Councillor Cliff Waterman, Leader of the Council, as set out in Paper number: COU/WS/24/005 accordingly.


As previously advised, the Chair called upon Councillor Julia Wakelam to introduce and move the motion. Councillor Wakelam drew attention to a number of issues relating to Suffolk County Council’s (SCC) proposal to close the West Suffolk archives branch in Raingate Street, Bury St Edmunds and centralise this service to The Hold in Ipswich.


While recognising the severe financial pressures faced by the County Council, Councillor Wakelam expressed her deep sadness regarding this proposed closure. She felt that the anticipated revenue savings of around £140,000 a year for SCC as a result of the consolidation of Suffolk archives was a relatively insignificant sum within the context of SCC’s entire budget and considered an alternative solution could be found. She urged members to support the motion which called for SCC to suspend the implementation of the change and work 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.


Councillor Wakelam thanked Dr Wood, the registered public speaker that had spoken on this matter earlier in the meeting, and others that wished to keep the archives in West Suffolk.


Councillor Wakelam provided a history of the West Suffolk archives, examples of records stored at the Raingate Street branch and the rationale for keeping them in West Suffolk, as set out in the paper. She felt gravely disappointed that no public consultation on SCC’s proposal had been held and the impact on residents regarding accessibility to the archives not only in terms of travel costs inflicted for visiting The Hold in Ipswich but also the ease in which to find a specific record. Concern was also expressed that The Hold had insufficient storage provision to accommodate the West Suffolk archives.


Councillor Wakelam encouraged members to support the motion and hoped that if sufficient pressure was put on SCC, it would rethink its proposal and engage with stakeholders to explore alternatives options.


The motion was duly seconded by Councillor Victor Lukaniuk.


In accordance with the Council Procedure Rules regarding the debating motions on notice, the Chair reminded members that only five other members may speak on the motion for a maximum of three minutes each. The Chair exercised his discretion and permitted six members to speak.


The majority of members that spoke on the motion were in support and echoed Councillor Wakelam’s concerns.


A request was made for a recorded vote, which was duly supported by more than the Constitutionally required ten members.


Councillor Nick Clarke, Leader of the Conservative Group expressed his support for keeping the West Suffolk archives in Bury St Edmunds; however, he did not feel approval of this motion was the most appropriate way to achieve that and suggested the motion be withdrawn.


Councillor Beccy Hopfensperger, member of both West Suffolk Council and Cabinet member at Suffolk County Council (SCC) considered that approval of the motion would not add anything meaningful to the solution. At its budget meeting on 15 February 2024, SCC had resolved not to commit any additional expenditure to the archives located in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft. As well as the revenue savings to be made, it was anticipated that it would cost over £5 million to protect the historic records and meet modern archive standards.  She added that it had been a difficult decision to relocate the archives to The Hold in Ipswich; however, SCC needed to reconsider its options following West Suffolk Council’s decision to cancel the Western Way project where it had previously been proposed to relocate the West Suffolk archives service. She felt this motion should have been raised at that time when SCC’s options were being considered.


Councillor Hopfensperger noted the request in the motion for SCC to engage with stakeholders and informed that she had received confirmation from the SCC Cabinet member with the responsibility for the archives, had agreed to meet with Councillor Cliff Waterman, Leader of West Suffolk Council (WSC). In addition, and recognising the importance of local historic records and enabling access to them, the SCC Cabinet member had committed to engaging with local stakeholders, including WSC with a view to agreeing a suitable solution moving forward. 


Following Councillor Wakelam’s right of reply, which included welcoming stakeholder engagement with SCC, the motion was put to the recorded vote. With 46 members present, the votes recorded were 32 votes for the motion, none against, and 14 abstentions; the names of those members voting for and abstaining being recorded as follows:


For the motion:


Councillors Alecock, Armitage, Bradshaw, Brown, Dawn Dicker, Roger Dicker, Halpin, Higgins, Hind, Jarvis, Kelly, Lindberg, London, Luccarini, Lukaniuk, Miller-Jones, Neal, O’Driscoll, Perry, Savage, Sayer, Shipp, David Smith, Liz Smith, Taylor, Thorndyke, Wakelam, Waldron, Waterman, Wijenayaka, Wittam and Yarrow.


Against the motion:






Councillors Bull, Chester, Chung, Clarke, Hopfensperger, Lynch, Mager, Marks, Mason, Rayner, Richardson, Rushbrook, Andrew Smith and Stamp.


It was therefore





1.       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; and therefore


2.       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.

Supporting documents: