Leader and deputy accused of keeping people in the dark about Broadland District Council job cuts

A council leader and his deputy were accused today of keeping people in the dark about their plans to cut costs by disbanding a department.

Jobs at Broadland District Council have been put at risk after proposals to end its strategy, community and housing service were revealed - just 12 months after it was created.

But the authority's overview and scrutiny (O&S) committee unanimously voted to send the idea back to the Conservative cabinet, calling on them to fully investigate how the cuts will hit Broadland's communities.

Union representatives have expressed concerns the service restructure does not follow the council's usual approach of providing evidence for change, while mixed messages had undermined morale and created a 'culture of uncertainty'.

Criticism was also aimed at council leader Andrew Proctor and his deputy Jo Cottingham, as O&S heard it was their idea to disband the department.

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Ben McGilvray, Liberal Democrat for Wroxham, told members yesterday: 'I personally think it's a cop out proposal. I think more worryingly if we approve this it's as if we are saying it's all fine for two members of the council to unilaterally change the policy of the council.

'We cannot have the leader and deputy leader having private meetings and deciding that will change council policy.

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'There may be good reasons to why it's been done but it's been in the dark until recently and members have not been given a chance to engage before now, members of staff have certainly not been given a chance.

'The problem is the report was commissioned on the premise of two members and I don't think that's a good way to run a council.'

Mrs Cottingham, who is also communities and housing portfolio holder, told the meeting the relevant cabinet member had been consulted on the proposals. The cabinet will decide next week whether to follow O&S's guidance or continue to back the changes.

For more on the changes and the detail behind the proposals, see tomorrow's papers.

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