Councils agree to share management

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TWO district councils will be merging their staffing structure under a single chief executive, it was decided this week.

A managerial merger between St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council was given the go ahead on Tuesday after St Edmundsbury councillors voted largely in favour of the proposal, following Forest Heath’s thumbs up to it last week.

“I don’t think we’ll be taking anything away from taxpayers, we’ll be making the services that we provide to them more resilient and we won’t have to make the savage cuts that we would have if we weren’t working together,” said leader of St Edmundsbury, Cllr John Griffiths.

The move is expected to make initial savings of more than £2 million and eradicate any duplication of roles within both authorities, resulting in job losses that will be managed, in part, by voluntary redundancies.

“If we didn’t do this the job cuts would come anyway, but we’d be a lot less resilient and we wouldn’t be sustainable,” said Cllr James Waters, the leader of Forest Heath, .

A joint appointments committee is being set up and will enlist the help of ‘outside expertise’ to appoint a new chief executive. The position, which St Edmundsbury’s Geoff Rivers and Forest Heath’s David Burnip will be able to apply for, will not be filled before January, after which a new staffing structure will begin to take place.

In addition to making budget savings, the two councils – which already share a waste management service, some ‘back office’ support services and a head of planning – will also be looking to generate new income.

The joint team will be looking at cost-effective ways to take on services currently offered by Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire County Councils, as well as looking at profitable opportunities in the private and voluntary sectors.

The equalisation of Council Tax and a full merger have not been ruled out for the future.