Councils set for savings with merged management team

PROPOSALS for a new shared senior management structure that would help save �400,000 a year, while maintaining the quality of services, will be discussed at a landmark meeting of two councils.

PROPOSALS for a new shared senior management structure that would help save �400,000 a year, while maintaining the quality of services, will be discussed at a landmark meeting of two councils.

For the first time ever, the cabinets of Suffolk Coastal and Waveney will officially meet simultaneously at Wenhaston Village Hall at 7pm on Monday, September 13 with the next step towards shared services at the top of their agenda.

'Our two councils already share a chief executive and two other senior posts, which has helped both councils save well over �200,000 in the last two years. We are now looking at the next logical step - merging our two senior management teams to help us save even more while at the same working better together in the way we provide our services to our residents,' said Cllrs Mark Bee, leader of Waveney and Cllr Ray Herring, leader of Suffolk Coastal.

'Stephen Baker, our shared chief executive, has drawn up proposals which would see one senior management team in place by October, with nearly 30pc less posts than before, and annual ongoing savings of around �400,000, of which �150,000 has already been achieved.

'This will build on the strong foundations laid over the last two years, our close working relationship and commitment to share our knowledge and expertise to better together provide increasing value for money services to our communities in these very difficult times. It's simply the right thing to do,' added Cllrs Bee and Herring.

As well as their chief executive, the two councils already share a head of planning, and an audit manager, who is also shared with Ipswich Borough Council. Last September the two councils agreed to become preferred partners, while in November 2009 a Joint Partnership Board was set up with councillors from both councils to help the councils work closer together. In May the councils jointly appointed a partnership programme manager to ensure that the integration of services deliver much-needed savings to both councils.

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'Our councils are not immune from the need to respond to the severe financial situation facing the country,' added Cllrs Bee and Herring. We face an urgent need to reduce the cost of our services despite both Councils having excellent recent track records of providing efficiencies and savings that exceeded Government targets over recent years while still protecting the quality of the services to our communities.

'We have to use that experience of bringing in change and becoming more business-like to help get us through the very tough years ahead. Working even closer and better together, sharing our knowledge and expertise to wring out every last possible saving and efficiency so that we can protect as many of our existing services as we can has to be our goal.'

All services are being reviewed at both councils to identify where cost reductions, efficiencies and improvements can be made through sharing services. The joint partnership board and partnership programme manager will ensure that there are sound business cases to show how savings will be made without the unavoidable effects on services.

The proposed new management structure would see the two councils with one chief executive, four directors and nine heads of service. This is an overall reduction of five posts, four of which are currently vacant and one pending retirement. If the cabinets both agree to the changes then the decisions will need to be ratified by the two councils before the new structure can be put in place for October.

Joint working and partnership development between the two councils was previously identified as a logical step forwards because of their shared boundary, challenges and characteristics, with both having responsibility for Suffolk's coastline and its management, and also having major seaside resorts, market towns and rural communities.

They also share infrastructure such as rail and road links but also face accessibility challenges, while the power corridor runs along through both districts, which also have in common arts and creative industries as well having maritime, logistics, tourism and technical/scientific sectors that are key to their economies.