Breckland council looking for new partner

A NORFOLK council which was dumped at the altar just before tying the knot in a “marriage” with a neighbouring authority is to set form a relationship with another jilted council.

A NORFOLK council which was dumped at the altar just before tying the knot in a “marriage” with a neighbouring authority is to set form a relationship with another jilted council.

Breckland and South Norfolk councils spent several months moving towards sharing staff to save millions of pounds of taxpayers' money.

But the deal was called off at the 11th hour after South Norfolk had a change of heart.

Last week Breckland announced it was “driving forward” with a proposal to share a chief executive and senior managers with South Holland District Council in Lincolnshire.

Cabinet members agreed to recommend to full council on August 12 to appoint South Holland chief executive Terry Huggins as joint senior officer of both authorities.

Breckland has also agreed to halt its search for its own chief executive to replace Trevor Holden, who recently left to head Luton Borough Council.

Most Read

More than 30 people had applied for the job and a shortlist of four had been drawn up, including interim chief executive Mark Stokes.

About �50,000 had been earmarked to find the new chief executive and about �15,000 of that has been spent.

As well as Mr Huggins' proposed appointment, detailed plans are also being looked at to create an “integrated shared management structure” and more joint working among the two Conservative controlled councils.

South Holland cabinet members have also backed the proposal and it will go to their full council on August 11.

The council had been looking at a shared services arrangement with neighbouring Boston council and that also fell through.

Breckland leader William Nunn dismissed fears that the 90 miles distance between Dereham and the South Holland headquarters at Spalding would be a problem - and stressed both authorities would make big savings.

During Breckland's cabinet meeting yesterday, members heard if projected governments cuts to councils of 25pc were implemented, the authority would have to save about �940,000 next year and �1.1m the following year.

Mr Nunn said: “This proposal will bring great benefits to the residents of both councils by helping to safeguard the services which they want from us through reducing the costs of management.

“For some time Breckland Council has been planning to do this as the next step of being an efficiently run and business like organisation. I believe that in South Holland we have identified another council with similar drive and ambition to our own and with whom we can make the arrangement work.

“The two councils don't have a common boundary being located either side of King's Lynn and West Norfolk DC but with modern communications this will not be a barrier to achieving the benefits. We believe the common purpose and aims to be the more important factors in the success of the project.”

Breckland Labour group leader Robin Goreham questioned the “undue haste” of the announcement,

“I am a little concerned by the speed of the interim chief executive appointment. This still has to be confirmed by full council but it was only at our last meeting that Mark Stoke was appointed acting chief executive.”

South Holland leader Gary Porter said he was “equally enthusiastic” to deliver the benefits of shared management arrangements for his council and has been exploring opportunities for achieving this.

Mr Huggins was appointed South Holland chief executive in 2003 and is the junior vice-president of the Society of Local Government Chief Executives (SOLACE) and hopes to be president in 2011/12.