Council boss says: We do work well

PUBLISHED: 09:38 08 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:58 22 October 2010

The chief executive of South Norfolk Council yesterday insisted its management structure was working well amid calls for a review to be carried out this year.

The chief executive of South Norfolk Council yesterday insisted its management structure was working well amid calls for a review to be carried out this year.

It followed a meeting of the council's scrutiny committee, in which members of the opposition Conservative group called for recommendations from a review of support services to be implemented sooner rather than later.

In 2005 the council started a best value review of support services (BVRSS) to establish a three-year plan on how it could save 15pc of its budget, while not adversely impacting on front line services.

Some 52 recommendations were made - from staff watering plants instead of contractors doing it to reviewing the way the council does its printing - which could save just over £900,000.

The plan also recommended reviewing the management team structure in 2006/07.

It currently includes the chief executive, Geoff Rivers, two corporate directors and 10 heads of service covering different departments.

The plan suggested combining services and reducing the heads of service by two full time equivalents and the corporate directors by one.

However, Mr Rivers has raised concerns about the proposals, saying that with just one corporate director his own focus would have to be more inward than outward and the council would not be able to move towards excellence.

Cabinet was asked to agree the deletion of the proposals from the three-year plan, but it was decided to keep them in and defer any review until 2008/09.

While Mr Rivers accepted the proposals should remain on the plan for the longer term, he has insisted that the current structure is "fit for purpose", it is working well and meeting targets.

"The level of corporate capacity we have allows South Norfolk to respond to residents in a positive way and to tackle many of the government-led initiatives - again in a positive way," he said yesterday.

"We have been judged as providing good value for money services and, in comparison with other councils of a similar geographical size and population, we are not top heavy."

Council leader Vivienne Clifford-Jackson said redundancy costs might outweigh savings and the experience of the management team would be needed when the impact of local government reorganisation became clear.

"It's not the right time and would be too costly. You need senior management to make very sensitive negotiations for our residents. We need to be very careful before we go losing experience that we may need over the next 18 months."

But Tory group leader John Fuller called for the review to be looked at once the white paper on local government reorganisation is published later this year.

"To delay it until 2008/09 seems grossly inadequate . . . Just to carry on because the government gave us a bit of extra cash seems to be wrong and we should not take out foot off the gas in terms of reorganisation."

Fellow Tory Garry Wheetley added: "What the leader said about redundancy costs being greater than the savings begs the question: Will it ever be any different? You shouldn't keep putting it off."

It was agreed to ask cabinet to look again at the timescale for the management review and for scrutiny to look at the proposals once the white paper has been published.

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