Breckland and South Norfolk councils merger moves forward

Shaun LowthorpeMoves to create Norfolk's first 'super district' authority are set to take a step forward with plans to create a single management team for two councils.Shaun Lowthorpe

Moves to create Norfolk's first "super district" authority are set to take a step forward with plans to create a single management team for two councils.

Breckland and South Norfolk Councils want to appoint a single interim chief executive who will oversee a joint senior management team.

The move, which follows the announcement of the departure of Breckland chief executive Trevor Holden and vacancies among the senior officer team of both authorities, will save �230,000 in salary costs.

Current South Norfolk chief executive Sandra Dinneen is expected to step into the breach and the councils also want to appoint a new "director of transformation" to look at how more teams can be merged and services shared.

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Although a final merger decision is not due until later in the year following the publication of a detailed business case, both sides agreed to act now so the councils could quickly get up and running if it is approved.

The proposals also recommend a realignment of cabinet member portfolios for each authority to mirror each other - though both councils will have their own separate cabinet teams and leader.

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The interim arrangement is expected to run until December 31, and ultimately, if progressed, a full merger could save �1m a year split between the two councils.

John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said the interim plans offered the best of both worlds.

"We are looking to the future and it really should be about a single team with the scale and ambition to deliver the best for both," he said.

"There is going to be no more money coming in to local government and we've got to make our own critical mass if services aren't going to suffer."

Breckland leader William Nunn said the idea would be to protect frontline services while also saving money by working more efficiently.

"The approach we are taking is about getting the best level of scale for the things districts do," he said.

Breckland Labour group leader Robin Goreham said he was "cautiously supportive" of the plans.

"I remain mystified as to why local Conservatives are embracing shared service provision while doing everything in their power to resist unitary governance," he added.

Murray Gray, Lib Dem group leader at South Norfolk Council, said it made sense in the current climate for councils to share services but he was against a full-blown merger.

"We are not against sharing services, but a full-scale merger would be a step too far," said Dr Gray.

"Our view is you should select your partners who are best placed for each particular service and not merge with one in particular."

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