Norfolk council shares boss with Lincolnshire

Chris HillA Norfolk council yesterday welcomed its new top officer, whose expertise will be shared with a council in Lincolnshire in a bid to cut management costs and protect services.Chris Hill

A Norfolk council yesterday welcomed its new top officer, whose expertise will be shared with a council in Lincolnshire in a bid to cut management costs and protect services.

Terry Huggins was appointed by Breckland Council as its joint chief executive, a role he will fulfil alongside his existing job at South Holland District Council.

It is hoped the move will enable both authorities to save money by pooling senior management resources in the face of looming government budget cuts.

The new boss said his arrival was the 'first part of a journey' which will ultimately lead to an integrated senior team, reducing the estimated �2m wage bill for the upper tiers of management across the two councils.

Mr Huggins, who was born and schooled in Norwich, will initially spend three days a week at Breckland's Dereham HQ to acquaint himself with his new role - 50 miles away from his other office in Spalding.

He conceded the arrangement meant he may not always be in the same building if someone wanted to speak to him, and said trouble-shooting of some local issues would be delegated to other senior managers.

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But he pledged to attend all full council and cabinet meetings, while always being contactable by phone or electronic methods like video-conferencing.

'There are two authorities, but there's only one of me and only 24 hours in a day,' he said. 'You may not be able to just knock on a door and see me. But the fact I may not always physically be here does not mean I won't be available. I will always be able to have those discussions.

'People are not getting half a chief executive. There is a lot I can do which will benefit both authorities at the same time, and where I am physically will not be a barrier. I need to be here for some of the things I do, but not for others.

'It is a great privilege and honour to be the chief executive of Breckland. This council has a reputation for being a well-run and businesslike authority, which has often been at the forefront of innovation in local government. My aim will be to support members to continue that reputation.'

Mr Huggins said the secondment agreement would name his places of work as Dereham and Spalding, meaning he would not claim travelling costs to Dereham. 'I clock on when I get here,' he said.

He said all public authorities had to make the most efficient use of their spending in order to prevent cuts in services to taxpayers.

'Any local authority has a significant investment in its management tier and we need to make sure we are getting the most out of that investment,' he said.

'This arrangement will maintain two councils with their own independence and democratic accountability to their electorate.'

Mr Huggins will remain an employee of South Holland, while half his salary will be invoiced monthly to Breckland. He began work with a series of meetings and briefings after Breckland's elected councillors formally agreed to his appointment yesterday, filling the post vacated by Trevor Holden earlier this year.

Council leader William Nunn said: 'Terry's joint appointment is a way of gaining greater efficiencies and value for money out of the management layer of both councils by spreading this necessary but costly resource across the two authorities.

'This will enable both councils to make financial savings in a way that will help us to minimise the impact of the cuts in public expenditure that are to follow later this year.'

Mr Huggins was appointed chief executive for South Holland in 2003. Since then, the authority's independent inspection rating has improved from 'fair' to 'excellent'.