Figures show there are nearly 300 fewer council workers in St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath compared to six years ago

West Suffolk House in Bury St Edmund

West Suffolk House in Bury St Edmund - Credit: Archant

The number of staff at two west Suffolk councils has dropped by about a third over the past six years - a period which saw 110 redundancies.

The figures have been provided by St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council following a request under the Freedom of Information Act by the EADT.

They show from the financial years 2008/9 to 2013/14 the workforce at St Edmundsbury has shrunk from 630 members of staff to 453, while at Forest Heath it has dropped from 293 to 196.

St Edmundsbury has seen the majority of redundancies with 61 and at Forest Heath the figure is 49, with redundancy payments costing St Edmundsbury £1,570,174 and Forest Heath £1,205,516 over the six years.

In the past few years the councils - which have faced a squeeze on their budgets - have moved to a single chief executive, a restructure of the senior management team, a single workforce and shared services.

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A spokesman for the West Suffolk councils partnership said: “Since formally agreeing to share services the Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils, working in partnership together as West Suffolk, now save £3.5 million every year between them as a direct result of delivering services differently.

“We now have a single, and therefore smaller, workforce working across not only our own council boundaries but also more closely with our county council, health and other partners.

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“Customers get easier access to services at council offices which are shared with other organisations, for example. And we continually look at ways to be innovative – the Mildenhall Hub, which is looking to bring together a wide range of education, council and other public services, is nationally recognised as a good example of how investing in doing things differently can bring real benefits to local communities.

“The role of local government, and the way it is funded, is changing and West Suffolk has changed to ensure we are fit for that future.”

Independent councillor Simon Cole, on Forest Heath District Council, said staff had been very resilient and felt the council had continued to do a good job through the challenges.

“They have given it a really good go and I support that and welcome it. I think [shared services] needed to be done. There’s no point paying extra money just to have a different logo on top of the pay slip.”

But he added: “I think we are getting very, very close to the end now of what can be done.”

Independent councillor Trevor Beckwith, on St Edmundsbury Borough Council, believes the council should focus on the core jobs it has to do, such as bin collections, rather than areas such as economic regeneration.

“People out there are not demanding a great deal. They just want the basic things doing properly,” he said.

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