8:30am Thursday 5th June 2014
By Freya Leng
PROPOSALS to join together four councils in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire and transform the way services are run are being hailed ‘a first’ for local government.
Leaders of Cotswold, Forest of Dean and West Oxfordshire District Councils and Cheltenham Borough Council are proposing a ‘2020 Vision for Joint Working’ initiative, which will save more than £55 million in 10 years.
If approved, the four councils would establish a jointlyowned local authority company to provide the services required by each individual council while remaining as independent authorities with their own elected councillor.
Councillor Lynden Stowe, Cotswold District Council leader, said the proposals would put them “at the forefront”
of the way local councils are being run.
“We’re the first in the country to come up with these radical proposals to protect front line services, to protect local decision making, cut the cost of bureaucracy, and keep the cost of council tax down,” he said.
“The council tax payers expect us to deliver their services as efficiently as possible, that’s what this proposal is all about.”
Cllr Stowe said the proposals were a natural progression from the GO Partnership, where all four councils already share some ‘back office’ functions, including finance, human resources and payroll which were already proving to save cash.
But he said the move would mean job losses.
“We expect the amount of posts to be reduced but we try and manage our job loses extremely sensitively,” he said.
Cllr Stowe said planning would remain something individual to each council and would not be affected by the partnership. But concerns have been raised about the councils each retaining their own identities.
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats at Cotswold District Council, said: “Any opportunity to save money and for a council to be more efficient is to be welcomed.
“However, one of my concerns is how services willbe scrutinised and held to account. Once you have different companies running services it becomes difficult.
“The question is whether residents will, at the end of all this, have a council which is close to them, listens to them and delivers services.
“I am yet to be convinced.”
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