Councils closer to merging teams

TWO Norfolk councils have moved one step closer to merging their senior management teams which would save them millions of pounds.

TWO Norfolk councils have moved one step closer to merging their senior management teams which would save them millions of pounds.

Councillors at South Norfolk Council have voted to appoint an interim Joint Corporate Management Team, with a joint chief executive, in partnership with neighbouring Breckland Council.

The team, which will be recruited from senior officers already employed at the two authorities, will start work from June 1.

Cabinet member portfolios on both councils will also be realigned so they mirror each other, although each authority will retain its own cabinet and leader.

The experimental collusion pre-empts the publication of a detailed business case by consultants, expected to be made public this week, which will form the basis of a continual merger.

Councillors will use the report to decide whether they want to make this a permanent arrangement at the end of June.

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It is estimated that the interim team will create more than �230,000 in savings, and if continued could help the two councils pull back �2m in expenditure each year.

John Fuller, speaking at a meeting of South Norfolk councillors on Monday, said the council had already made �2m in savings from its budget but people should be under no illusion that its economic troubles were over.

“If we do not take further action to make savings there will be cuts that the residents will notice and services will suffer,” he said.

Plans to create an interim team followed the departure of Breckland chief executive Trevor Holden and vacancies among senior staff at both councils.

Current South Norfolk chief executive Sandra Dinneen is expected to step into his shoes and oversee the new team.

But Murray Gray, Liberal Democrat group leader at South Norfolk Council, said although the authority needed to take action he was concerned about two councils relying on one chief executive and asked that two deputies could also be appointed.

“She will be running two councils in two disparate locations. My worry is that the councils will expect the same level of commitment from their chief executive as before and that's not going to happen. We don't want chief executive burnout,” he said.

Mr Fuller said he hoped the interim arrangement would highlight where any changes would need to be made.

He also said the council aimed to maintain the quality of its services throughout the transformation and acknowledged that staff morale would be affected.

“There will be an impact on staff morale. I know that. If we do not do something we will not be here as we now know it. We are between a hard rock and a place in terms of the financial situation and we have to be pragmatic,” he said.

Breckland Council is expected to pledge its support for the interim team at a meeting tomorrow.