Breckland councillors back plans to merge senior management team with South Holland and Great Yarmouth

Three councils 100 miles apart look all set to a share single management team after Breckland councillors today joined Great Yarmouth and South Holland in approving plans.

Conservatives said the proposals would save Breckland taxpayers �100,000 without cutting frontline services, and open up opportunities for sharing more services and saving money on joint procurement deals.

Great Yarmouth councillors approved the plans by 19 votes to 13 on Thursday evening, while the Lincolnshire district gave them the green light the previous day.

Terry Huggins, chief executive of both Breckland and South Holland since August 2010, was also appointed top official at Great Yarmouth for the implementation period.

He said: 'Each of the three councils will continue to maintain their own independence and democratic accountability to their people.

'There's no need for you to blur, becoming one authority. You remain very much in control of your own destiny.'

However, Labour councillors questioned the distance between the local authorities, and said it would be difficult to reverse the merger in the event of future problems.

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Labour group leader Terry Jermy said his requests for data about absenteeism and staff turnover since integration with South Holland had been ignored, making it hard to judge whether the partnership was successful.

The four-member group said it did not have enough information to judge the merits of the scheme, and abstained on the vote.

Mr Jermy said: 'Logic would suggest in order to get maximum benefit from sharing service, you would join up with those authorities that are geographically closest.

'Yarmouth is after all closer to the country of Holland than it is to the district of South Holland.

'To get maximum benefit from the expertise of the employees, logic would suggest the authorities would be based in the same geographical location, facing roughly the same issues. There is little that connects Great Yarmouth to the area of Breckland, or indeed South Holland.'

He added: 'What would happen if there was a view taken that shared services was no longer the best option?

'Unsharing services would be even more difficult than sharing them in the first place.'

Breckland leader William Nunn said sharing top officers from the three councils would increase the team's resilience and allow money to be used on front-line services.

Fellow Tory Ian Sherwood said Breckland could learn from community projects in Great Yarmouth and improve the local quality of life for very little money.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the three councils said: 'Breckland and South Holland are two modern forward-thinking councils who have made a success of working in partnership. Great Yarmouth will join as an equal partner.

'This initiative will create a strong and resilient management team and provide financial savings which will help each council continue to protect frontline services.

'This streamlined management team will reflect the entrepreneurial spirit of our councils and represents an exciting opportunity.'

The councils will now consult staff, before making a final decision on Thursday, May 24.

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