Council 'marriage' could save �2m

Ian ClarkeNearly �2m a year of taxpayers' money could be saved if two Norfolk councils join their staffs, according to a new report.Ian Clarke

Nearly �2m a year of taxpayers' money could be saved if two Norfolk councils join their staffs, according to a new report.

But it could cost up to �1.7m to merge the teams at Breckland and South Norfolk and make redundancy payments to workers who lose their jobs.

The two authorities are exploring the idea a 'marriage' of their services and councillors from both authorities are currently debating the pros and cons of the idea.

No decisions have yet been made but last week a joint meeting of the two scrutiny committees agreed they should push towards a preferred option of a single workforce serving both councils.

Breckland and South Norfolk have commissioned a report from outside consultants, which concludes that if the councils can save money themselves it could avoid imposed cuts from the government.

The report highlights three main options: one workforce for both councils, separate workforces but sharing some services or shared 'back office' activities.

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A decision on the way forward is set to be made quicker following the announcement that Breckland chief executive Trevor Holden is leaving the council to run Luton Borough Council.

A fundamental part of the shared services agenda will be how many senior managers there will be - and if there is a single chief executive, whether it will be an internal or external appointment.

The feasibility report by Sector/Solace estimates that almost �640,000 could be saved by having one chief executive, one deputy, three directors and 20 heads of service for the two councils. Currently there are a total of two chief executives, one deputy (South Norfolk does not have one), six directors and 35 heads of service.

The study says that about �920,000 a year could also be saved by sharing staff plus about �340,000 from South Norfolk joining the Anglia Revenues Partnership.

The savings would be offset by one-off transition costs for shared services of about �850,000 plus between �500,000 and �800,000 for redundancy payments.

One of the conclusions of the report says: 'The combination of the two councils would make a major force in the region. Joint spending of in excess of �50m per annum and a population served of close to a quarter of a million provides the opportunity for building service delivery of even higher standard than currently.'