Bury St Edmunds: Unions in pledge to work with councils

UNION bosses have said it is important to work closely with two cost-cutting councils who are merging their management, despite their concerns.

Seven senior posts, including two directors and five heads of service, are likely to be axed if the creation of a joint management team across Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council gets approved at two special council meetings tonight and tomorrow.

Ian Gallin, chief executive of both authorities, has said the restructure is designed to make “significant savings” of up to �2.5million and remove “boundaries between our councils” to improve the delivery of services.

Mark Johnson, branch secretary of Unison at West Suffolk House said despite the job losses and uncertainty surrounding the costs of implementing the new structure, it was vital the union worked closely with both councils.

“Of course we are concerned, But we know that things need to be changed and savings need to be made. We are in tighter and tighter times,” he said.

Mr Johnson added: “We are working closely with both councils to make sure normal, gold standard service remains uninterrupted.

“We have got a good working relationship with the council and that means, if we see something coming that could affect staff we can ask questions about it.”

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Councillors from St Edmunds-bury will vote tonight on the joint management team, with Forest Heath voting tomorrow evening.

If the proposals are approved as expected, the new team could be in place by October 1.

However, according to council documents, the structure will only work effectively once all council services are joined up, a process which is scheduled to be complete by April 2013.

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said : “Both councils need to find significant savings. Bringing staff together into single services that work across council boundaries to cover all of West Suffolk will help to deliver those savings and these shared services will work most efficiently with shared managers.

“Councillors are being asked this week to approve a structure that will protect frontline services, reduce management costs and provide leadership across West Suffolk and beyond with our staff and partners. We are working closely with Unison at every stage of the shared services process.

“There have already been a number of sessions throughout the shared services process with councillors and staff to explore different ways of working and there will be more in the future to help senior councillors and managers work together efficiently.”

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