South Holland District Council offices.

‘Uncoupling’ of district councils?

A ten-year partnership between South Holland and Breckland district councils looks set to come to an end.

A report to go before South Holland’s Cabinet on Tuesday outlines a preference for each council to establish new ‘local’ partnerships.

The two councils formed a partnership in 2010 with several areas of shared working. Officers and staff also regularly travelled between Spalding and Breckland’s offices in Dereham, Norfolk.

But it seems likely that the two councils will go their separate ways later this year as a review is carried out into partnership working.

The report, by head of paid service and strategic advisor Nathan Elvery, is the first stage in a review of shared management and joint working arrangements.

The preferred option which cabinet members are recommended to accept is for each council to explore new, local partnerships.

“It is evident that both councils have demonstrated for more than a decade their collective ambition for their local residents, communities and places,” the report says.

A response to the current pandemic saw a ‘temporary uncoupling’ of many shared managers and local teams were introduced and are now operational.

“It also builds on the requirement not to travel, stay home and focused on officer’s place of residence in accordance with the guidance,” the report adds.

The shared manager structure was approved in December 2010 and followed the appointment of a joint chief executive. A review of the situation was held in 2015 and said cost reductions totalled £4.4m with ongoing annual benefits of more than £500,000 to each council.

“The pioneering spirit demonstrated over the last decade continues and the review is an opportunity for both councils to explore the natural evolution of their organisations,” says the report.

A range of options have been evaluated and the recommendation is to work locally. The final approval has to be by both full council meetings next month.

“COVID-19 has highlighted the critical importance of local government to their places and communities,” cabinet members will be told.

The report is the first of three stages which, if agreed, could see a separation in March.

“Every attempt will be made to minimise the risk of redundancy for those staff within the scope of this review.

“Every attempt will be made to locate staff to their preferred council,” the report says.

“These are challenging times for both councils and for the staff who support the services delivered by and within both councils. It is recognised that the review itself could add to the pressures,” adds the report.

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