Councils set to merge posts in drive to cut costs

TWO district councils serving east Suffolk are set to merge back office functions and posts in a bid to save taxpayers’ cash, the EADT can reveal.

Suffolk Coastal District Council and Waveney District Council already share a chief executive but next week officials are due to discuss a number of moves to take the collaboration further.

Four director posts could be shared between the two authorities along with nine head of service positions – saving an estimated �250,000.

Last night, Suffolk Coastal leader Ray Herring said a full merger of the two councils was something that could “happen in due course”.

In a move Mr Herring branded “pioneering”, the joint management team could be put in place with strategic directors, heads of service and senior managers this autumn.

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He said the proposals would save around 30% of management costs for Suffolk Coastal.

For the last two years the councils have shared their chief executive Stephen Baker, head of planning Phil Ridley as well as about three officers.

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During that time Mr Herring said the two organisations had been preparing for the merger of policy and service delivery.

He said that as the new Government had pulled the plug on local government review and unitary status, they were able to press ahead with the shared services arrangement.

He said the proposals would “deliver efficiency and economies across the two organisations by working much closer together”.

“It will mean better value for money,” he said. “The new Government has told us we can’t expect the same level of resources we have had in the past.

“We have got to reduce our costs by between 20 and 30% over the next year or two and we have got to manage that reduction, otherwise it will mean council tax payers will have to pay much more. It is about delivering better value for money.”

He added that the two councils had been planning and managing the move in a bid to minimise the number of redundancies that will result.

“We have been working closely together, preparing for this for a long period of time.

“It means, while we can’t say we can prevent redundancies, if anyone has left in the last 18 months we have kept that place open and so the team should be put in place easily and redundancies will be kept to a minimum.”

The Joint Partnership Board will meet next Wednesday and formal debate of the proposals will take place at a simultaneous cabinet meeting, with all councillors from both organisations invited, on Monday, September 13.

The moves mirror those made by neighbouring Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils which are in the process of debating a full merger of the two organisations.

The proposals could save around �1million of taxpayers money.

The plans involve varying degrees of staff integration leading to a single staffing structure to serve both councils.

Mark Bee, leader of Waveney District Council, could not be contacted for comment last night.

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