West Suffolk: Councils team up to save �7m

COUNCIL chiefs have pledged to share services to save �7 million over six years.

Bosses at St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council have developed a ‘special relationship’ to save cash and boost performance.

John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury, said the move to work with Forest Heath was driven by a need to tackle Government funding cuts.

Announcing the shared services partnership at a press conference at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds yesterday, Mr Griffiths said the move was a way of protecting west Suffolk’s prosperity.

“Everybody is aware of the difficult decisions both the Government and the county council are undertaking,” he said.

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“We are ahead of the game in Suffolk.

“We have so much in common, it makes a great deal of sense to do this.”

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By joining together to provide key services over the next three years, the two councils hope to trim their budgets and streamline services.

But with the amalgamation of staff and departments, neither council could rule out job losses in the future.

“There will probably be less staff at the end than there were at the beginning,” Mr Griffiths said.

“If vacancies come up we try to fill them within the two councils.

“It will be managed carefully.”

A new information and communications (ICT) system has been developed across both councils, which could save �1.7 million over six years.

But as there will be a level of duplication across the two authorities, some posts will not be needed when the new service is set up.

All staff likely to be affected by the programme of shared services programme will be consulted and involved at every stage, it was claimed.

Since December 2009, both councils have been formally working together to investigate sharing services and staff.

St Edmundsbury is also set to join the Anglia Revenues Partnership (ARP) on April 1, the partnership which already delivers revenues and benefits for Forest Heath and Breckland Council, to save �325,000 in administration costs.

Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury also hope to save �300,000 a year by developing a shared waste management service.

It is also hoped to create a shared service managing properties across both authorities.

Although it is not a formal merger, David Burnip, chief executive of Forest Heath District Council could not rule out a complete merging of the two authorities in the future.

“It is keeping alive a west Suffolk concept and who knows what that may bring in the future,” he said.

“The public care about services and, if we can protect services by getting all this right, that’s our aim.”

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