Unison fears merger could mean job cuts

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A MAJOR public sector union has raised fears that a cost-cutting council merger will cause job losses and damage the local economy.

Six months after Breckland Council merged its senior management operations with South Holland District Council in Lincolnshire, the two councils could be set to welcome Great Yarmouth Borough Council as a third partner.

If talks are successul, the merger is set to be the first of its kind in UK local government. The trio are hoping it will add to the £1 million year-on-year savings that have resulted from the Breckland and South Holland merger.

But concerns have been raised by Unison, the public sector union, that the merger will cost jobs and damage the local economy.

Brian Lynch, regional organiser for Unison, said: “Their perspective is the medium-term savings that they will make and not the jobs that will be lost as a result.

“Those job losses mean less people spending money in the local community and if I was part of the local chamber of commerce I would be very concerned.”

William Nunn, leader of Breckland Council, recognised there would be concerns over job losses but insisted the merger was designed to protect frontline positions.

“The whole point of this is to merge senior management and keep frontline jobs in place.

“We are looking at merging management and it will actually mean empowering staff and being able to hold them to account,” he said, adding that he did not know how many mergers would be suitable before a ‘tipping point’ was reached.

“It has to be sustainable and save us all money – there would be a point where they won’t happen,” he said.

Last year, Breckland and South Holland appointed Terry Huggins as joint chief executive. The latest proposal would see Great Yarmouth added to Mr Huggins responsibilities.

Discussions are continuing, with bosses hoping to have a shared management structure laid out by the end of 2011.