Breckland Council approves tough cost-cutting measures

Cost-cutting councillors in Breckland have agreed to freeze their own annual allowances – while also approving a new shared management structure to shed senior officers' jobs.

The council was told last week that its spending power would be slashed by 8.9pc over the next three years as a result of severe cuts in its grant funding from the government.

At a meeting last week, council members agreed that the prevailing financial uncertainties meant the money they are paid for their work should remain unchanged in 2011.

Each of the 54 councillors can claim a basic allowance of �5,200, and there are also a range of special responsibility payments including �11,050 for cabinet members and �20,800 for the council leader.

Deputy leader Adrian Stasiak, who was not at the meeting, decided not to claim a proposed �2,600 increase in his allowance which an independent panel recommended as recognition for the growing responsibilities of the role.

But one councillor, Terry Lamb, said more could be done. 'If elsewhere we are forced to reconsider our managers, reduce our expenditure and sell off our land then, if we really want to be radical, perhaps we should be thinking about cutting the number of councillors.'

Council chairman Linda Monument said: 'If we reduce the number of councillors we reduce the democratic representation of the people we serve. But if any one of us feels we should do our bit to reduce the budget we always have the option to reduce the amount that we claim on our allowances.'

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Breckland's efficiency drive is being underpinned by a shared management project with South Holland Council in Lincolnshire, which has already been the subject of a 30-day staff consultation on potential job losses.

At last Thursday's meeting, councillors agreed to a new management structure which will halve the senior management jobs across the two authorities as they seek to share a saving of more than �1m a year.

Joint chief executive Terry Huggins outlined the plans which would see 36 senior positions combined into a single management team comprising 18 roles – reducing the combined wage bill from �2.34m to �1.27m.

The council agreed unanimously to the new structure, and also to a 'memorandum of agreement' which says the relationship between the two authorities, although based on trust, must clearly show a 50/50 split of resources.

Mr Huggins said: 'The significant aim of this is around the financial savings it will deliver for the two local authorities, but it goes far beyond that. It is about making a better, more efficient use of our management resources you are paying for.

Council leader William Nunn said: 'The driver behind all this is to make us a leaner operation at the top, so we can preserve our services at the bottom.'