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West Suffolk: Councils to merge workforces in move to save cash

PUBLISHED: 06:00 27 October 2011

St Edmundsbury Brough Council leader John Griffiths

St Edmundsbury Brough Council leader John Griffiths

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JOB losses are on the cards as two councils agree to move forward with a shared workforce - but the cuts would be more severe if they had to stand alone, the authorities’ leaders say.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council have agreed to have one chief executive, a shared management team and a combined workforce, which could see initial savings of more than £2million.

Politically, the two councils would remain separate and they would keep their own council offices.

Speaking yesterday, councillor John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, and councillor James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council, accepted the changes would inevitably mean less staff, but did not have any detail as yet on the numbers potentially affected by job losses.

Mr Griffiths said: “It would be very optimistic to say there will be no redundancies, but hopefully these can be kept to a minimum going forward.”

He added: “It’s inevitable there will be less staff working for both councils in three years than now, but having said that there will be natural wastage.”

He congratulated staff for being so positive about things during a difficult time.

Mr Waters said he hoped a lot of the job losses would come voluntarily, adding how there would be many more if the councils were standing alone.

They said council tax payers and businesses in west Suffolk were facing tough financial times and the councils needed to do all they could to tightly control their costs.

They said: “Cutting those costs by sharing a chief executive and senior managers is a logical next step. Having a single structure, with skilled and experienced staff seamlessly providing high quality services wherever people need them, makes a much better use of our limited resources.

“Coming together in this way also puts us in a stronger position to develop other partnerships where we could make further savings or generate income to help minimise the financial burden for people living and working in west Suffolk.

“We believe that this is the best possible result for people in west Suffolk and for both councils, enabling us to support our communities by continuing to provide good quality, real value for money services.”

St Edmundsbury Borough Council needs to save £3-4million in two to three years, Mr Griffiths said.

A chief executive for both councils - which could be somebody from outside the authorities - is expected to be appointed from January next year. Mr Griffiths said they would want this person to be involved in the new structure.

Currently, the chief executive at St Edmundsbury Borough Council is Geoff Rivers, earning £126,000, and at Forest Heath District Council it is David Burnip, earning £100,000.

Since December 2010 the two councils have been working towards sharing services - for example revenues and benefits - but this latest move is a step further. Mr Waters described it as “one of the biggest things that’s going to happen to Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury”.

Last year St Edmundsbury Borough Council had 506 members of staff, compared to 251 at Forest Heath District Council.

As well as the chief executives, the borough council has two corporate directors and nine heads of service and the district council has two strategic directors and six heads of service. The heads of service include a shared head of planning.

•Read the article on page 12 for the results of a consultation run by St Edmundbury Borough Council on how the authority could save £3.5million.

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