Cotswolds could merge with other local authorities under shared service plan
A RADICAL shake-up of local Government looks set to merge services in parts of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire in a bid to save more than £5million a year.
Under the proposals being considered this week, Cotswold, Forest of Dean and West Oxfordshire District Councils together with Cheltenham Borough Council, would transfer all staff to new companies which would be jointly owned by the four authorities.
It would mean there would be some job losses as a result but no need for large scale redundancies, CDC chief executive David Neudegg revealed this week.
He is one of the principle architects of the proposal and said services currently undertaken by the councils individually would be provided by the new companies and members of the public would notice no difference. It would deliver a combined estimated annual saving of £5.5million for the four authorities, he said.
It is not the first time joint working has been used to save money.
Mr Neudegg’s is chief executive of both Cotswold and West Oxfordshire District Councils, and the two councils also share IT support.
By reducing the administration and running costs of the councils we can spend a bigger proportion of our budget on delivering the frontline services our communities needCllr Patrick Molyneux, leader of Forest of Dean District Council
Last year CDC partnered with Cheltenham to create waste company UBICO which now deals with household rubbish and recycling collections.
Mr Neudegg stressed that the independence of the individual councils will be unaffected and elected councillors will retain all their present powers and responsibilities.
Councils will continue to be in complete control of the services provided, advised by a small team of senior experts employed by the service-delivery company.
The estimated 15 per cent savings would mostly be from salaries, but also from bulk buying and pooling resources.
Precise staffing figures were not available to the Standard this week but by far the biggest chunk of any council’s budget is staffing costs and it is no secret that all public bodies are running scared of their future pension commitments.
New pension arrangements would be made for staff hired by the new companies although pensions for existing staff would be unchanged.
Cllr Lynden Stowe, leader of Cotswold District Council, said the proposal represented perhaps the most radical joint working approach in local government today.
“It is a proper, considered response to a challenge not only of how to best use a smaller and reducing public subsidy but also how to make best use of technology; how to encourage and use a competitive market and how to make smart use of managerial and other expertise,” he said.
Cllr Patrick Molyneux, leader of Forest of Dean District Council, added: “By reducing the administration and running costs of the councils we can spend a bigger proportion of our budget on delivering the frontline services our communities need, while keeping the democratic decision-making of local councillors intact.”
The document containing the proposal, 2020 Vision for Joint Working, is available on the councils’ websites and will discussed at the CDC cabinet meeting on June 5.