Joint working for councils?

THE prospect of closer co-operation between the region s two district councils has come a step closer this week. Torridge councillors on Monday unanimously approved a proposal by their Leader, Cllr James Morrish, that a joint management team should be est

THE prospect of closer co-operation between the region's two district councils has come a step closer this week.

Torridge councillors on Monday unanimously approved a proposal by their Leader, Cllr James Morrish, that a joint management team should be established with North Devon Council at the earliest opportunity.

This would mean both councils sharing a chief executive and executive directors.

Savings would be made through the consolidation of management positions, including redundancies or early retirement among senior staff.


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North Devon Council will be having a full debate on the proposals in a few weeks' time. Council Leader Cllr Des Brailey said he agreed with the move in principle.

Driving the councils closer together is the prospect of Government money to run district services being reduced by between 15 and 40 per cent from 2011.

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The seemingly failed attempt to impose a unitary authority on Devon has also hastened moves to alter the shape of local government in the county.

West Devon and South Hams District Councils are already in the process of working more closely together and have been advising colleagues in Torridge and North Devon of their progress.

Discussions between the two northern Devon councils have been going on since 2003 about a vision for partnership working for the benefit of both districts.

The vision is that closer working could eventually mean the provision of consolidated council services across the who region, resulting in more savings through efficiency gains. It is thought that by as early as next year both councils will be making significant savings while providing residents and businesses with better quality services.

Mr Brailey called for complete transparency in discussions between the two councils.

"We need to explore the opportunities, but a joint management team could come in several guises," he said.

"I have made it clear to Torridge that a chief executive from outside the two authorities would have to be appointed with no internal candidates.

"We would need to have consideration for our staff and I would not be looking for wholesale redundancies."

Mr Morrish was talking to staff at Riverbank House yesterday (Tuesday) to discuss the possible implications .

He told the Gazette that restructuring was going on in the private sector and local authorities were not immune to change.

"It is not right to say that a job in local government is a job for life. It is not like that any more," he said.

"Let's have a council fit for purpose. Our residents expect us to save money wherever we possibly can. It's no use thinking we are untouchable and stick an extra five per cent on council tax."

Mr Morrish said that, at present, he did not see jobs below heads of services being affected.

He saw a joint management team as the bridge between Torridge and North Devon and it would be up to it to put together the nuts and bolts of closer working.

He acknowledged there was a difference of opinion over the appointment of a chief executive, but he was not sure it would be legally possible to ban internal candidates.

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