Councils meet to discuss merger

TWO COUNCILS are holding meetings behind closed doors to discuss merging their management teams – a move that has the potential to save millions of pounds.

Forest Heath District Council discussed the ‘shared services’ proposal in secret on Wednesday and St Edmundsbury Borough Council has a similar meeting planned for Tuesday.

If approved, both authorities would be run by a new chief executive and a single management team.

Borough councillor David Nettleton said he was unable to comment on the proposals in detail but did believe parts of Tuesday’s meeting should be open because ‘the public has the right to know about it in principle’, while discussions about individual officers and restructuring management teams should remain private.

Cllr Nettleton said: “My concern is, if we’re talking about making lots of savings, when do the people get the savings? If we’ve got shared services, shouldn’t we have the same Council Tax?”

Currently, people living in Band D properties in Forest Heath pay the district council £137.43 in Council Tax while people in Band D properties in St Edmundsbury pay the borough council £175.23.

Cllr Nettleton said he would be asking for a graduated reduction in Council Tax, of around £4.50 per year, for residents in St Edmundsbury.

As a member of the borough’s officer appointments committee, he also asked: “If we’re going to have a joint chief executive, who’s going to make that appointment?”

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said: “We’ve been weighing up processes to join up services and now have an update for councillors which, due to the need to finalise budget savings, we felt couldn’t wait until our next planned full council meeting in December.”