South Norfolk still committed to council services ‘marriage’

Leaders at South Norfolk Council said they were still looking to enter into a shared services marriage, despite dumping Breckland Council at the altar.

The district council had been ready to commit to a deal with its neighbours earlier this year, which would have seen the two authorities sharing a chief executive and senior management team.

But 'cultural differences' resulted in officials from South Norfolk calling off the special relationship, which was projected to make �8.5m of savings for both councils.

Officers at the authority said they were still looking for a partner to share services with after cancelling the deal with Breckland six months ago.

It comes after South Norfolk's scrutiny committee discussed the lessons learnt from the Breckland affair and what they would do differently if another partnership arose.

Ann McCawley, change management director at South Norfolk Council, said the council had done some 'opportunistic' sharing with other authorities such as using a joint head of environmental services with Broadland District Council over the last six months and joining the Norfolk Benefits Partnerships with contemporaries in North Norfolk, West Norfolk and Great Yarmouth.

However, she added that they had 'learnt an awful lot' from their discussions with Breckland and entering an arrangement with a similar-sized council would be better than 'scatter gunning' resources.

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'It is ideal because it is easier to join together and that is what is best practice, but it is not to say we are looking at anything else. South Norfolk Council still remains convinced that attracting a new partner for shared services is the best way forward,' she said.

Some of the key learning points set out by the council for future arrangements include, mutual trust, commitment to equal partnership, aligning council tax levels and having an exit strategy in place.

However, officers remain tight-lipped over future deals. South Norfolk chief executive Sandra Dinneen said: 'We have had conversations with a number potential partners and those conversations are ongoing.'

Liberal Democrat Trevor Lewis criticised the council for sharing single services with some councils, but still pursuing the shared chief executive and senior management route.

He said: 'Our report directs us to marriage rather than the odd affair!'

Breckland Council now shares a chief executive with South Holland District Council in Lincolnshire.