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Exploring shared services

PUBLISHED: 09:21 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 21:53 07 July 2010

COUNCIL chiefs have been urged to safeguard frontline services and avoid compulsory job cuts as two Norfolk authorities work towards sharing staff.

COUNCIL chiefs have been urged to safeguard frontline services and avoid compulsory job cuts as two Norfolk authorities work towards sharing staff.

Breckland and South Norfolk councils have each agreed to invest £45,000 of officer time to explore a shared services agreement.

It is aimed at cutting duplication and saving money but both councils would keep their current councillors.

The Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnership has given a £90,000 grant for consultants to work on a feasibility study and business plan.

The aim is for an agreement to be signed by the two councils in May.

Breckland leader William Nunn said: “We must be able to make efficiency savings. We are doing the feasibility work and see where it takes us. We would have opportunities which are not there at the moment as a small authority. We will be a considerable sized organisation covering 250,000 people if it goes ahead.”

Chief executive Trevor Holden said no estimates had been made about how many posts may be lost.

Breckland Labour group members Robin Goreham, Pat Balaam and Michael Fanthorpe issued a statement saying they “cautiously welcomed” the move and added: “Innovation is far more inspirational and worthwhile than opposing change at all costs.”

But they called for regular scrutiny of the process, a £135,000 cap on spending on the investigation, assurances on frontline services “being maintained and upheld to the highest standards at all times” and full consultation with staff and avoiding compulsory redundancies.

Breckland councillor Ian Sherwood said: “What is important is the big difference between what we are proposing and a unitary council is democratic representation. That is what would be lost under unitary. Breckland is represented by local people in a fair number and unitary would be much fewer councillors representing more people.”

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